First Day of School Reminder: School Bus Rules

As the first day of school rolls out for many in Tampa Bay, it is a good time to remind drivers and parents about the road rules.

The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles advises that motorists should always be alert and drive with caution around school buses, and while in school zones.

Drivers are required to stop when approaching a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing and “STOP” arms extended.

Here is a breakdown of different school bus scenarios:

Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing.

All drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.

On a highway divided by a paved median, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal, and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.

The only time traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop, is if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic.

On a highway divided by a raised barrier or an unpaved median at least 5 feet wide, drivers moving in the opposite direction do not have to stop for the bus (painted lines or pavement markings are not considered barriers). However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus.

If you don’t abide by these rules, there are penalties which include: a citation for a moving violation, requirement to complete a basic Driver Improvement Course, four points on your driver’s license and a minimum fine of $165. But if you pass on the wise where children enter and exit, you will receive a minimum fine of $265.

In July, the Cameron Mayhew Act took effect, which increased the minimum penalty for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus. Cameron was a Fort Myers teenager who was struck and killed by a driver at his bus stop in 2016.

As a result, the following penalties could be issued to a driver who passed a stopped school bus and causes serious injuries or the death of another person: serve 120 community service hours in a trauma center or hospital; participate in a victim's impact panel session or DHSMV approved driver improvement course; six points added to driver's license; suspended license for minimum of one year, and an $1,500 fine.

FHSMV offered the following safety tips for parents and children:

Arrive at the bus stop with about five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

At bus stops, children should wait in a safe place away from the road. Never sit on the roadway or curb while waiting for your bus.

Make sure your children know their bus driver’s name and bus number.

Tell children to never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into the car with a stranger. Children should tell parents, the bus driver and a teacher at school if a stranger tries to talk to them or pick them up.

Children should never walk behind a bus and should stay away from bus wheels at all times. When the bus stops, children should wait for the driver’s signal that it is safe to cross the road or board the bus.

Children should look both ways before crossing the street- look left, right and left again. Tell them to make eye contact to make sure the bus driver can see them as they cross the street.

On the bus, children should remain seated at all times and keep the aisle clear. Tell children not to put their head, hands or arms out the window.

Remind children to stop talking and remain silent when the bus comes to a railroad crossing so the driver can hear if a train is approaching.

Children should avoid any loud or disruptive behavior that could distract the bus driver from safely operating the bus.

For more information on school bus safety, visit FHSMV’s website here.