If you have failed to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign out, you are not alone. The North Carolina Department of Transportation estimates an average of 3,000 motorists pass school buses each day school is in session.
Whether you were distracted and did not notice the flashing lights and stop sign or did not recall the specifics of state traffic laws related to school buses, you face significant penalties if the police ticket you.
Rules for motorists encountering a stopped school bus
Bus drivers are required to turn on the bus’s red flashing lights and extend the stop sign when they load or unload children. In turn, the law establishes rules you must follow when encountering a stopped bus. Motorists traveling in both directions must stop on:
- Two-lane roads without a center turning lane
- Two-lane roads with a center turning lane
- Four-lane roads without a median
If you were driving on a four-lane divided highway or a four-lane road with a center turning lane, you were only required to stop if you were traveling in the same direction as the bus.
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus
The consequences are steep if a judge finds you guilty of illegally passing a stopped school bus. Violating the law is a Class I misdemeanor. The state fines you $500, at a minimum. However, if you strike a student, it becomes a Class I felony, leading to fines of $1,250 or more and a revoked driver’s license for two years.
The consequences of a guilty verdict for violating stopped school bus laws are harsh. They get even more severe if you have repeat offenses.