4 school bus safety tips for drivers

Posted in Auto

Father helps young daughter put on a backpack to prepare for school.

With summer winding down, school buses will hit the roads in anticipation of a new school year. As a driver, it’s a great time to brush up on your safe driving habits so you can confidently share the road with school buses.

You play an important role in creating a safe environment as school buses pick up and drop off children. Since school buses are among the safest modes of transport, it’s when children are walking to a bus stop or getting on or off a bus that they are most at risk of being hit by other vehicles.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 36% of school-age pedestrians from 2006 to 2015 were fatally injured by another vehicle in school transportation-related crashes. Luckily, there are ways to share the road safely.

Here are four ways you can practice safe driving habits this school year:

1. Heed flashing lights.

It’s the law in all 50 states to stop for a stopped school bus with flashing lights. The lights indicate one of the following is happening:

  • Flashing yellow lights – Indicates the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Slow down and prepare to stop your vehicle to allow for safe loading or unloading.
  • Flashing red lights – Usually paired with an extended stop arm, this indicates the bus is stopped and children are actively in the process of getting on or off the bus. As a driver, you must stop your vehicle and wait until the lights stop flashing, the extended arm retracts and the bus begins to move before you resume moving.

2. Know when to stop for a school bus.

If you’re driving on the opposite side of the road from a stopped school bus, you may be uncertain if you’re required to stop, too. Turns out, it depends on the type of road and the school bus laws in your state. For example, drivers on the other side of a divided highway don’t need to stop for a stopped school bus. You’ll find this is a common law among most states.

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3. Be aware of school bus limitations.

Due to their large size and cargo (read: children), school buses will have different limitations than your smaller vehicle. Keep these tips in mind when driving around school buses:

  • Stopping distance – School buses travel at slower speeds, so be ready to hit the brakes to maintain a safe distance. If you’re driving behind a bus, leave a greater following distance so you have more time to stop when the bus stops.
  • Railroad crossings – By law, school buses are required to stop at all railroad crossings.
  • Limited visibility – Their large size can limit your ability to see in front of a school bus. If a bus is stopped in front of you, don’t pass it. There could be pedestrians crossing in front of a bus you can’t see from your vantage point.

4. Don’t drive distracted.

As always, practicing safe driving habits while your car is in motion can not only protect you but your passengers and others out on the road. Maintain extra caution when:

  • Backing out of your driveway or a parking space.
  • Driving in neighborhoods.
  • Approaching crosswalks.

Never text and drive and keep your focus on the road ahead of you. Learn how to break up with distracted driving habits with these tips.

Back to school is an exciting time, and it’s up to all of us to keep our roads safe. Whether you’re in your neighborhood, on the road or in a school parking lot, driving with extra caution at peak times for school buses can help keep everyone safe.

This article is for informational and suggestion purposes only. To learn more about Grange auto insurance, talk to your local independent agent.

- National Safety Council
- Consumer Reports
- Drive-Safely.net

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