Legalese — Stopping for a School Bus

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There seems to be some basic confusion about when you do and don’t have to stop for a school bus, and, considering the law changed somewhat in Georgia this year, I thought I’d take this space to clear it up.

The general rule is this: when you see a school bus that is stopped, and there is the stop sign and the flashing lights on the bus, whether you are going in the same direction as the bus or the opposite direction as the bus, you still have to stop.  You can’t go until the bus starts going again and it pulls in the stop sign thingie and turns off the flashing lights.

There are some exceptions, and that’s where the law has changed subtly in recent months.  The law itself says, “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways or a divided highway, including, but not limited to, a highway divided by a turn lane, need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway or on another half of a divided highway, or upon a controlled access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.”  In English, this means that if you are going in the opposite direction of the bus and it is a divided highway, meaning a road divided by a turn lane or a concrete divider, you don’t have to stop for the bus.  A controlled access highway is kind of like an interstate – the kind of thing where you don’t have intersections so much as exits and onramps. 

An interesting part of this law says that if a school bus driver sees you violate this law, they can take down the make and model of your car and your tag number and report that information to the local police department within 15 days.  When they do this, the owner of the car can get a civil monetary penalty of $250.00.  To use a bad analogy, it allows school bus drivers to act like red light cameras.  In a way, this makes sense.  They are going to be the ones who are going to see the most violators, and this is one of the most dangerous traffic violations outside of DUI.  Additionally, many school busses are equipped with cameras, so often there is a video or photograph of the violation.

There would, of course, be no points on your license because it would be a civil penalty.  It would be a defense if you could show that your car was stolen at the time or that you were not the one driving it.   

As with most things traffic, the general rule is one of common sense: be safe.  Drive in a way that protects our children and the public in general from unnecessary harm. 

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice.  It is being offered for informational purposes only.  

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