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Use caution around buses
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Among the most dangerous acts a motorist can commit, passing a school bus in the act of loading or off-loading school children is one of the most serious. Granted, school bus traffic tragedies do not happen every day, but when a child is hit by a moving vehicle, the outcome is usually devastating.

School bus drivers and police officers regularly observe motorists take this risk, and while common sense dictates that a stopped school bus with flashing red lights is likely to have children in its proximity, it appears that, for some, it is a sense that is not so common. I have been informed by officers that many people truly do not know the law pertaining to school buses. The most common form of this violation is when motorists pass a school bus that is stopped along the opposite lane.

The California Vehicle Code states, "The driver of any vehicle, upon meeting or overtaking, from either direction, any school bus... that is stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading any schoolchildren and displays a flashing red light signal and stop signal arm... shall bring the vehicle to a stop immediately before passing the school bus and shall not proceed past the school bus until the flashing red light signal and stop signal arm, if equipped with a stop signal arm, cease operation." Also, "the driver of a vehicle upon a divided highway or multiple-lane highway need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus that is upon the other roadway."

Now with this review of the law, it is important that everyone be extraordinarily careful around school buses, and that they stop as required by the vehicle code. As an example of how cautious motorists should be, some emergency response vehicle operators who are driving under "Code Three" conditions, will actually stop and wait (even though they can otherwise legally pass the bus) when encountering a school bus that is in the process of loading or unloading kids. These emergency vehicles operators are aware of the dangers so they avoid the risk of passing a school bus.

School bus drivers have the authority to report these violations, and are encouraged to. All too often, vehicles illegally pass buses as they stop at Railroad crossings or pull to the side of the road to load or offload passengers without a second thought. This carelessness results in placing children in harm's way. While it may seem to be an inconvenience having to stop while a bus is unloading or loading children on the other side of the street, it is a small and simple measure that one can take to obey the law and most importantly, prevent unnecessary accidents that involve children in our community.