HARRISBURG – With the rumble of school buses soon heralding back-to-school season in Pennsylvania, PennDOT reminded motorists and students to watch out for one another.
“Back-to-school can be an exciting and distracting time for children, which means motorists need to be extra careful; especially at peak times for school buses and pedestrians,” said PennDOT Secretary Allen D. Biehler, P.E. “Motorists need to watch for students who are boarding and exiting buses, obey school crossing guards and follow all traffic laws regarding stopped school buses and school zones.”
Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law requires motorists approaching a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended to stop at least 10 feet from the bus. Motorists approaching from all directions are required to stop. However, motorists who encounter a school bus stopping on the opposite side of a divided highway are not required to stop; lanes of a divided highway are clearly separated by a divider, such as concrete barriers or grassy medians.
Motorists convicted of violating Pennsylvania’s school bus stopping law face a $250 fine, five points on their record and a 60-day license suspension.
Motorists must also exercise caution in school zones. Schools are hubs of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, so motorists are required to slow down to the posted speed limit of 15 miles per hour in school zones. Violations carry a fine and three points on the driver’s record.
Students also share responsibility for remaining safe. PennDOT asks parents to discuss with students the following school bus safety tips:
- Get to the bus stop five minutes early to avoid having to run to catch the bus;
- If crossing the street to board the school bus, be sure to look LEFT-RIGHT-LEFT to see that all cars have stopped;
- When waiting for the school bus, stay at least five giant steps away from the curb or roadway to avoid traffic;
- Avoid the “School Bus Danger Zone” by staying at least 10 giant steps away from the bus on all sides so the bus driver can see you. If you drop something near or under a bus, be sure to tell the driver before trying to retrieve it;
- NEVER walk behind the school bus;
- When getting on and off the bus, secure drawstrings and other loose objects so they cannot get caught in the handrail or door;
- Talk quietly while on the bus so the driver is not distracted; and
- Remain seated at all times and wait for the bus to fully stop before standing up to exit.
Student pedestrians should avoid using cell phones or wearing headphones to prevent distractions while walking near traffic.
For more tips, visit the School Bus Safety link under the Traffic Safety Information Center on PennDOT’s highway safety Web site. The website also features an animated illustration of the school bus stopping law.