Be safe in sharing the road with school buses

In Maine, about 80 percent of students ride the school bus, and this ridership is high compared to 50 percent national student ridership. During the school year in Maine, about 140,000 children are transported on 3,000 school buses by 2,200 school bus drivers over 30 million miles of urban and rural roads. To add to this, Maine traditionally has one of the best safety records in the nation.

stopped bus sideSchool buses are most likely to be on the road during a three hour window of time in the morning and a three hour window of time in the afternoon. Typically, the three hour time periods are scheduled at the same bus stop location about the same time each school day. School buses may also be on the road throughout the day with pre-kindergarten and special needs transport.

Because school buses travel at lower rates of speed and make frequent stops, sharing the roads with commuter traffic, it’s crucial to follow the rules of the road to continue to keep Maine children safe on their journey to and from school.

When a school bus is preparing to stop, the bus driver will activate “yellow flashing lights” at least 100 feet before the bus stops. Once stopped, the bus driver will put the vehicle in neutral or park with the parking brake set. With the parking break set, the driver then opens the door which automatically activates the “red flashing lights” and extends the “stop arm stop sign.” The bus driver visually looks and makes a final check to ensure all traffic has stopped before signaling students to approach the bus.

Maine State law, Title 29-A, §2308, requires motorist to stop for school buses that are receiving or discharging passengers. The motor vehicle driver must stop when encountering a school bus in the process of loading or unloading students:

  • On a public highway
  • On multiple lane roads
  • On a public street
  • On a private road
  • In a parking area
  • On school property

The motor vehicle driver must stop from either direction. The motor vehicle driver must also stop if the school bus is stopped and waiting for another bus in front of it to receive or discharge passengers.

Tips for sharing the road with school buses

  1. Be prepared to stop for a school bus; remember that buses make frequent stops.
  2. Stop when a school bus is stopped with the red lights flashing and stop arm extended.
  3. Never pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.
  4. Watch and stop for children who cross in front of the bus when the bus is stopped.
  5. Watch for children at bus stops and stop when necessary for safe movement of the child.
  6. By law, Title 29-A, §2306, school buses are required to stop at railroad crossings, so be prepared for that as well.
Penalties for Illegally Passing A Stopped School Bus With Its Red Lights Flashing
By Driver Conviction Fines + Charges License Penalty
First conviction $311 N/A Class E Crime
Second conviction (within 3 years) $311 30 day suspension Class E Crime

For more information, contact Maine DOE’s Transportation and Facilities Administrator, Pat Hinckley at pat.hinckely@maine.gov or call 624-6886.