As the school year gets back into full swing, roadways become busier with bright yellow school buses packed with kids. While student safety is a top concern for school officials and parents, it should be for all drivers on the road, as well. However, many Massachusetts residents fail to follow proper traffic laws when it comes to school bus stops. This sometimes results in injuries, and sadly, even fatalities. Here’s what every driver needs to know and understand about the school zone safety law:
See a bus, slow down and stop
When you see a stopped school bus with flashing lights, or one that is approaching your intersection, you should immediately slow down to stop. School buses are equipped with flashing lights and stop signs that extend outwards when children are entering and exiting the vehicle. It’s crucial that drivers act responsibly and bring their vehicles to a complete stop when these flashing lights are visible.
Drivers are required by Massachusetts law to come to a complete stop while students enter and exit the vehicle. You must abide by the law, stop, and then wait for the flashing lights and stop sign on the bus to be retracted before proceeding. Children need to have the opportunity to safely cross the road when boarding and exiting the bus.
Passing a stopped school bus
Massachusetts law requires that motorists in all lanes in both directions on a two-lane roadway must come to a stop when a school bus is stopped for pick-ups and drop offs. When children are entering or exiting the vehicle and the lights are flashing, all other drivers on the two-lane roadway have to stop or risk a $250 fine, or worse. The law applies to emergency vehicles as well. School bus drivers can report the license plate numbers of vehicles that illegally pass them to police.
Another important aspect of the law to note is that all drivers must remain 100 feet behind a school bus at all times. Buses typically will begin indicating a stop with flashing lights at least 200 feet before actually stopping. This is for safety purposes, since buses make frequent stops.
Rules of the road in school zones
The speed limit for all school zones is 20 mph. If you get caught speeding in a school zone, you can be fined twice the amount of the violation currently in effect. It is also important to note that motorists are not allowed to pass while in a school zone, and pedestrians have the right-of-way in a school zone crosswalk. Distracted or reckless driving can cost a driver more than a ticket, and it could cost a child their life.
What parents can do
Parents can help to protect their kids by walking them to the bus stop and ensuring that they board safely. Talking to children about bus safety is important. Kids need to know that they should wait until the bus comes to a complete stop and has the lights flashing before stepping off of the curb to board. They should always be alert and aware when walking to and from their bus stop, especially when crossing a street.
Failure to stop can cost lives
Drivers who attempt to quickly get around the bus can and have caused serious bodily injury, and even death. Young children between the ages of 4 and 7 are at the greatest risk, according to the Massachusetts Department of Health and Human Services.
While you may not be able to see a child running across the street, the stopped bus with flashing lights is an indicator that children are present and have not safely made it on or off of the vehicle. Bus drivers will turn off the lights when they see that the children have reached safety, and that’s why it is critical that drivers on the road follow these cues. Drivers who fail to do so are breaking the law.
Do your part to keep Massachusetts school children safe by obeying the school bus zone law.