Here's the law: If you are driving and a school bus stops and turns on flashing red lights, you also must stop. The law applies regardless of whether you are behind the bus or approaching the bus from the front. You cannot proceed until the flashing red lights are deactivated.
Here's the reality: People ignore the law. Across the country each day, tens of thousands of drivers violate that law and put children at risk.
“The truth is, just about every Putnam City driver sees cars pass the bus when warning lights are flashing and students are disembarking. We asked our drivers to count one day and we recorded 68 violations,” said John Crafton, Putnam City's director of transportation and past president of the Oklahoma Association for Pupil Transportation.
In a project sponsored by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, more than 100,000 school bus drivers in 28 states recorded on one day how many times motorists passed their school buses illegally. On that day, drivers reported that 76,685 vehicles passed buses for which they should have stopped.
In a 180-day school year in those 28 states, that amounts to more than 13 million stop-arm violations. Project the numbers to all 50 states, and it's 136,937 violations a day and more than 24 million violations a year.
Student death toll
The National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey reported four student deaths in the 2010-11 school year due to cars illegally passing stopped buses. The survey has been taken annually since 1970, and hundreds of student deaths due to unsafe and illegal acts by motorists since have been reported.
A 2008 report from the Texas Transportation Institute, looking at National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data, says children are at greatest risk when getting on or off the school bus. Most of the children killed in bus-related crashes are pedestrians, 5 to 7 years old.
Nearly one-third of the deaths occur in the 10-foot area surrounding the bus because of passing motorists who ignore the flashing red lights and disregard a deployed stop-arm.
Safety around school buses is important in making sure all students get to school without incident.”