School bus laws every motorist needs to know

School is back in session, which means school busses in the Portland Metro area are back on the road.

Driving safely around school buses is crucial to protect the lives of children and ensure road safety. To achieve this, strict rules and regulations govern how drivers should react when sharing the road with school buses. These rules are designed to minimize the risk of accidents and provide a safe environment for students getting on and off the bus. Here are some essential rules to follow when driving with school buses on the road:

Stopping for School Buses: One of the most important rules is to stop when a school bus is loading or unloading children. In most places, this means stopping when approaching a bus from either direction if its red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended. Failure to stop in this situation is not only dangerous but also illegal. Oregon law mandates drivers to stop 20 feet or more in this situation.  

Distance Matters: Maintaining a safe following distance when following a school bus. School buses make frequent stops, and children may dart out unexpectedly. Keeping a reasonable distance ensures you have enough time to react if the bus suddenly stops.

Passing School Buses: Passing a stopped school bus is prohibited in most areas when its red lights are flashing, and the stop arm is extended. Some jurisdictions, including Oregon, allow passing when driving in the opposite direction on a divided highway, but it’s essential to check local regulations.

Yield the Right of Way: Even if you have the right of way, you must yield to a school bus when it merges into traffic after dropping off or picking up students. Children may not always follow traffic rules, so exercise caution.

Obey Speed Limits: Attention to speed limits in school zones, especially when school buses are present. Reduced speed limits are enforced during school hours to protect children walking to and from school.

Be Patient: School buses make frequent stops, and they may take longer to get going again. Be patient and avoid aggressive driving behaviors when driving near school buses.

No U-Turns or Overtaking: It is generally illegal to make U-turns or overtake other vehicles near a school bus. These actions can put children at risk and are often against the law.

Follow School Bus Signals: Pay attention to the signals and lights on the school bus. Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop, while red flashing lights and the extended stop arm mean the bus has stopped and children are getting on or off.

Use Extra Caution in Bad Weather: Poor weather conditions can make seeing and stopping for a school bus more challenging. In adverse weather, increase your following distance and reduce your speed.

Know the Local Laws: Familiarize yourself with the specific laws and regulations in your area regarding school buses. Laws can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, so it’s essential to know the rules that apply to your location. Oregon law 

Watch for Crossing Guards: When a school crossing guard is present, obey their signals and instructions. They are there to help children safely cross the road.

Driving around school buses requires extra care and attention to ensure the safety of children. Following these rules helps protect young passengers, maintain order on the road, and avoid potentially costly fines and legal consequences. Remember that the safety of our children is a shared responsibility, and everyone must play their part in keeping them safe on their journey to and from school.

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