The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (OCGA) section 40-6-163 covers the circumstances under which motorists must stop when approaching a bus that is loading or unloading students with its warning signals activated.
The driver of a vehicle meeting or overtaking a school bus stopped on the highway shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation (activated) the school bus visual signals and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated.
Here's a translation for those of us who don't understand legalese: if a bus is on the street with its red lights and stop arm flashing—do not pass it! The only exception to the law is if the bus is operating on a four-lane highway with a median—such as a grass strip or concrete barrier—which provides a physical divide. Drivers traveling in the opposite direction of the bus are not required to stop on such a road. Drivers following a bus are always required to stop when the bus' stop lights are activated.
Here are a couple of practical examples: on the sections of Memorial Drive where there is a concrete median, drivers do not have to stop when the bus is on the other side of the road, but drivers following the bus must stop; on Lawrenceville Highway, which does not have any median, drivers traveling in both directions must stop when the bus has its stop arm and lights activated.
Improper passing of a school bus carries a hefty penalty. Drivers convicted of unlawfully passing a school bus receive a hefty six points (fifteen points within twenty four months gets your license suspended)—the most points the state gives. Fines run into the hundreds of dollars. Drivers under twenty one found guilty of unlawfully passing a school bus will have their license suspended for a minimum of six months.
In addition, conviction of unlawful passing of a school bus will likely result in a hefty increase in your insurance rates.
The Georgia DOE Department of Pupil Transportation assists local school districts in their efforts to provide safe and efficient transportation for students to and from school and school related activities. The department provides assistance in the areas of driver training, funding, equipment specifications and purchases, interpretation of State and Federal laws and regulations, and routing. For more information please visit the GaDOE School Bus Safety website [ http://www.gadoe.org/Finance-and-Business-Operations/Pupil-Transportation/Pages/School-Bus-Safety.aspx ].
- Lane Ranger: Drivers Plead Ignorance of Law on Passing School Buses [ http://www.dekalb.k12.ga.us/www.php/transportation/index/safety#ajcArticle ] (Atlanta Journal Constitution [AJC] 2001)
Parents are strongly encouraged to make bus stops safer by escorting children to the bus stop.
- Talk about bus safety with your child.
- Escort your child to the bus stop in the morning.
- Be early! Arrive at least five minutes ahead of time.
- Wait for the bus in an orderly manner.
- Wait for the driver's signal before crossing the street.
- Cross the street at least ten feet in front of the bus.
- Never walk behind or crawl under a school bus.
- Never go back to the bus for anything you may have dropped or left behind.
- Never run to or from the bus.
- Remove or secure drawstrings, straps, and the like, or any piece of clothing or accessory (book bag, etc.) that could get caught in the bus door or hand rails.
- Always obey the driver.
- Stay in your seat.
- Keep your hands, arms, and head inside the bus.
- Be on the look out for children. They can appear suddenly and without notice out from behind stopped school buses.
- Please obey the posted speed limit in school zones. Children may be present in the area at any time, but are especially present when the lights on the school zone sign are flashing.
- Please keep your eyes out for crossing guards when children are walking to and from school. Failure to stop for a crossing guard carries the same penalty as failure to stop for a traffic light or a stop sign.
- When the yellow warning lights on the bus flash, this lets motorists know that the bus will be stopping to load or unload students. Please slow down and prepare to stop instead of speeding up to pass the bus.