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Op-Ed: School Bus Stop Safety

The following op-ed is written by Campbell Co. Attorney Steve Franzen.

I hear too often that people carelessly pass a school bus when children are exiting the bus, trying to head home from a productive day at school. Although last year was different due to the pandemic, life is starting to return to normal. As such, it will not be an uncommon scene to see school buses stopped to pick up or drop off children. When this is going on, it is important to remember the laws that we must follow to ensure the safety of the students. 

When a school bus is stopped, it will display markings that signify that it is a school bus making a stop for children. The school bus will have alternating flashing signal lamps and a stop arm folding sign. There will be four (4) red signal lamps, two (2) on the front and two (2) on the rear of the bus. There will also be four (4) signal lamps that are located near each red signal lamp. The bus will be equipped with a stop arm folding sign that is located on the driver’s side. The stop sign will have the word “stop” on both sides of the sign, with the letters being at least six (6) inches in height. Prior to stopping the school bus, the driver will extend the stop arm and activate the red flashing lights to make it apparent that the bus will be picking up or dropping off passengers.  

When a school bus stops and extends the stop arm with the signals activated, while passengers are being picked up or dropped off, a person driving their vehicle shall make a complete stop. The person driving their vehicle must remain at a stop until the bus has completely picked up or dropped off their passengers. The person driving their vehicle will know that the bus has finished picking up or dropping off passengers because the bus will withdraw the stop sign, turn off the signals and start to put the bus into motion. At this time, a driver can pass the school bus if, and only if, passing is allowed on that road. This stopping requirement is not applicable to vehicles approaching the stopped bus from the opposite direction on a highway of four (4) or more lanes.  When approaching a school bus, it is important to keep an eye out for the stop sign, the signals, the motion of the bus and any passengers that may be crossing near or around the bus.  

If any vehicle is witnessed to drive past a school bus when they are stopped with the sign extended and lights on, and the driver’s identity is not apparent or known, the person whose name the vehicle is registered or leased in will be the presumed driver. The penalty for breaking the above stated law is, on the first offense, a fine of no more than two hundred dollars ($200) nor less than one hundred dollars ($100). That person could also be imprisoned no less than thirty (30) days nor more than sixty (60) days. When there are subsequent offenses, that occur within three (3) years, the person shall be fined no less than three hundred dollars ($300) nor more than five hundred dollars ($500). The person could be imprisoned for no less than sixty (60) days nor more than six (6) months. There is also the penalty of having a minimum of six (6) points being assessed against the driver if convicted. Not including the legal penalties, there is also the risk of injuring a passenger exiting the bus. This person could be severely injured, possibly having to go to the hospital, or they could be killed. Passing a bus when it is stopped with the sign extended and lights on is more than illegal, it is irresponsible.  

I hope you have found this information helpful.  If you have any topics you would like to have covered in this column, please contact my office by e-mail at, by phone at 491-7700 or by regular mail addressed to 319 York Street, Newport, Kentucky 41071.