Do You Know When to Stop for a School Bus?

Do You Know When to Stop for a School Bus?

As children begin to head back to school, the topic of safety often becomes part of our conversations. That is especially true for school bus safety. It is sometimes confusing trying to figure out when you can and cannot pass a school bus that is stopped.

Each state has different laws concerning when you can legally pass a stopped school bus. Out of curiosity, I looked up when a driver can safely pass a stopped school bus in each of the states where McNaughton-McKay has branches. The information provided below is from the School Training Solutions Manual. Please keep in mind that this is only a guide and should you have any questions it would be best to contact your local DMV about your state’s laws and regulations. You can also visit the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services website for additional school bus safety information.


Once the flashing lights have turned red and the stop signs have extended from the side of the bus, it is unlawful for any vehicle to pass the stopped school bus while it is loading or unloading passengers. On a highway divided by a median, cars traveling on the opposite side from the stopped school bus are not required to stop.


When the red overhead lights are flashing, stop at least 20 feet from the school bus. Remain stopped until the flashing red lights are turned off or the bus resumes its travels. It is not necessary to stop for a school bus stopped on the other side of a divided highway where the road is separated by a barrier, such as a concrete or grass median, island or other structures that separate the flow of traffic.

North Carolina

When a school bus displays its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights to receive or discharge passengers, the driver of any other vehicle approaching the school bus must stop and not attempt to pass the school bus until the mechanical stop signal is withdrawn, the flashing red lights are turned off and the bus has started to move. Divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation or a center turning lane: when school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.


When the bus comes to a complete stop, the amber lights stop flashing and four red lights—two in front and two in back—start flashing while the children enter or leave the bus. In addition, a stop arm with flashing red lights is automatically extended beneath the window on the left side of the bus. If the bus is stopped on a street or road which has fewer than four lanes, all traffic approaching the bus from either direction must stop at least 10 feet from the front or rear of the bus and remain stopped until the bus begins to move or the bus driver signals motorists to proceed.

South Carolina

You must stop for a stopped school bus with flashing lights that is loading or unloading passengers. This is required by law whether you are meeting the bus or traveling behind it under the following conditions: on any two-lane highway, on any four-lane or multi-lane highway when traveling behind a school bus, or when passing a school bus that has red or amber signals flashing.

Be Aware. Stay Alert. Our Kids Are Worth It.


Posted on Friday Aug 11, 2017 | bus, safety, school,

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