Share the Road: 5 Tips for Driving Safely Near School Buses

This post is brought to you by and written by our sponsor, First Student. First Student Inc is the leading school transportation provider in North America and we are delighted to have them offer their expertise on riding the bus here!

There’s an entire ecosystem of safety around school buses. This includes road signs, traffic laws, the size, weight and construction of the bus, and the skill of the driver. It also includes the other motorists. For most motorists, driver’s education classes are a distant memory. With school back in session, it’s important to know the rules when it comes to sharing the road with school buses.

driving safely near school busesPassing a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing is illegal in New Hampshire and all 50 states. In its 2019 national stop arm survey, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services tallied 95,319 stop arm violations in just one day, which equates to more than 17 million illegal passes over the course of a 180-day school year. This lack of attention by other motorists is causing close calls and injuries to children. It is crucial that we all stay alert as students prepare to board or exit the bus.

Five Important Rules for Motorists when Sharing the Road with School Buses:

Maintain a Safe Distance.

School buses stop frequently. Leave plenty of distance between your car and the bus in front of you so you can safely apply the brakes once yellow lights start to flash. Sharing the road with school buses means giving them a wide berth.

Stop for Stop Arms.

Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm mean a child is entering or exiting the bus. On two-lane roadways, come to a complete stop (in either direction) until the stop arm and red lights are deactivated.

Never Pass From Behind.

Passing a stopped school bus from behind as it loads and unloads children is illegal in all 50 states. 

Give Riders Plenty of Room.

Children are hard to see within the 10-foot area surrounding a school bus. When stopping, help keep children safe by giving them plenty of room to get on or off the bus.

Know Your State Laws.

State laws surrounding driving safely near school buses can vary from state to state. For example, in New Hampshire cars must stop at least 25 feet from the school bus. The only time motorists do not need to stop is when they are on the other side of a divided highway. To learn more, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Everyone in the community plays a crucial role in ensuring students get to and from school safely each day, so watch for school buses. Be alert, be aware and help keep children safe. Kids love riding the bus — let’s help keep it that way!

Kid getting of a bus
Riding the bus is fun and safe — do your part as a motorist to keep it this way!

About First Student

Sandra Rowe, who wrote this piece, is a location manager in Exeter for First Student. As the leading school transportation solutions provider in North America, First Student completes five million student journeys each day. They move more passengers than all U.S. airlines combined. Sandra encourages readers to explore the Parent Resources available on First Student’s website.