O. K., now you know what the law says,
but what does this mean in non-statute language?
It is really very
(1) If you are going the same way as a school bus that is
flashing red lights and has the stop arm extended, you must stop
behind the bus and cannot move until the bus retracts the stop arm
and turns off the flashing red lights.
(2) If you are going the opposite way as a school bus that is
flashing red lights and has the stop arm extended, you must stop in
front of the bus and cannot move until the bus retracts the stop arm
and turns off the flashing red lights -- UNLESS:
(A) you are on a divided highway and the one-way roadways are
separated by an unpaved space at least five feet in width, or
(B) you are on a divided highway and the one-way roadways are
separated by a physical barrier.
In short, you must stop for a school bus that is flashing red
lights and has the stop arm extended -- unless (1) you are on a divided highway, and (2) the
divided highway has either a five-foot unpaved space or a physical
barrier separating the roadways. If all of the above are
present, you should continue driving at a legal speed, but with an
increased awareness that school-aged children are in the vicinity.
Ah, do you have some questions? Like, what is a barrier? Like,
what is an unpaved space? Like, what about paved cross-overs on some
divided highways? These answers should help you!
A barrier is a continuous permanent or semi-permanent obstruction
that makes it very difficult for a vehicle or pedestrian to go from
one roadway to another. Examples of a barrier are a chain-link fence
or a concrete abutment. Traffic cones or trees in a medium are not
barriers. ALSO, PAINTED LINES, PAVEMENT MARKINGS, AND ONE- OR
TWO-WAY LEFT-HAND TURN LANES DO NOT CONSTITUTE A BARRIER.
An unpaved space is a grass, dirt, gravel, water, etc. division
between one- or multi-lane roadways going in opposite directions.
This space may either be a swale lower than the roadways or a median
raised above the roadways. While "paved" sometimes refers only to
concrete surfaces, in this context "paved" refers to any hard
surfaced permanent ground cover.
Most divided highways with an intervening unpaved space or
barrier have paved cross-overs at certain intervals. What do you do
if a bus is stopped exactly at that cross-over? It is the general
character of the entire road that counts and in this situation you
are not required to stop, unless there is a school crossing guard on
duty who is signaling you to stop or there is a traffic signal with
a red light facing toward your vehicle.
The one- or two-way left hand turn lanes common between many
single- and multi-lane roadways are never to be considered a barrier
or "unpaved" space. If you are traveling on one of these roads, you
must stop for a school bus that is flashing red lights and has the
stop arm extended -- regardless of the direction you are traveling
or the number of lanes in either direction.
School buses are equipped with yellow flashing lights in addition
to red flashing lights. Do I have to stop for a bus that is flashing
yellow lights? Flashing yellow lights are for warning purposes,
primarily to let you know the driver is nearing a loading or
unloading zone and will soon be stopping and displaying flashing red
lights and extending the stop arm. You should not stop for flashing
yellow lights; however, you should slow and be prepared to come to a
complete stop. If otherwise legal and safe to pass, you may pass a
school bus in this situation. But again, be aware that there may be
school-aged children in the vicinity.
Remember, most likely you will not be the only vehicle on the
roadway going in the same direction. When you see a school bus with
yellow lights flashing, start preparing to stop. Signal your
intentions by slowing down and activating your brake lights. Don't
surprise the drivers behind you by your actions. You know the law
and are a safe driver. Always let the other driver, who may not know
the law or may not be as safety conscious as you, know what you are