The smart way to safely deal with school buses
Remember the saying “You can’t see the forest because of the trees”? I think that’s very true for many drivers throughout our community when it comes to school buses. Many drivers know what to do when asked, but many times fail to do it. It’s almost as if they don’t see those big yellow buses. How can drivers improve their safe driving when near school buses? Well, I’m glad you asked.
The stopping distance from a school bus when they have their lights flashing and the stop arm out will vary depending on the jurisdiction you live in. When approaching from behind the bus, you need to stop well back, in some cases anywhere from 6 to 20 metres from the rear of the bus, which will allow the driver of the bus to see you in their mirrors so they can safely let the kids off the bus.
If you’re approaching the bus from the opposite direction, you must stop far enough away that will allow the kids to safely cross the street to get on or off the bus. Avoid stopping so close the kids become reluctant to cross in front of your vehicle. This is the general rule in most jurisdictions, but check your jurisdiction to ensure you’re making the correct choices. The only time you wouldn’t have to stop when approaching a stopped school bus from the opposite direction is if there is a concrete or grass median down the centre of the road.
So now that we’ve all been refreshed with the rules, let’s improve our ability to spot these school buses. To some, that may sound kind of strange. How could you not spot a big, yellow bus? Easy; drivers get distracted in thought as they head to work each day and also when they come home. Keep looking well ahead while driving and from building to building to help you spot the buses. Expect they will stop so you’re prepared to stop as well. Be aware of what’s happening behind you at all times to know if you can make a safe stop if the bus does.
If you’re dropping your kids off at school, find a place that won’t interfere with school buses. They have specific drop off areas at each school, so clogging up those areas just isn’t a good idea for anyone. Perhaps dropping your kids off down the street from the school or around the corner from school will work better for them. And besides, why would you want to drive near a school bus that is letting off 40 or 50 kids at one time? That would slow you down as well.
The fines and demerit points alone for passing a stopped school bus with their lights flashing and stop arm out are severe enough to annoy any driver, but the thought of hitting a child as they walked out from in front of the bus send shivers down my spine, as I’m sure it does with you.