Under Vehicle and Traffic Law 1174(a), drivers are required to stop for school buses that have their red lights flashing or their stop signs out and are picking up or discharging passengers. Failing to stop can have serious consequences, including 5 points on your license, up to a month in jail, and fines of up to $400 for a first offense. The penalties are significantly worse for repeat offenders.
Despite the potentially severe consequences, drivers are seen violating VTL 1174(a) on a frequent basis. We asked Trooper Travis Hall for an officer’s perspective on school bus stop violations and how they are enforced.
When should you stop for a school bus? Is it when the lights change to red or when the stop sign is shown?
Travis: The lights are a warning that the stop sign will be coming down. Trying to pass a school bus with flashing lights is taking an unnecessary risk so I don’t recommend doing that. My mantra is to always treat a school bus or any other risk like you would when taking a driving test. Would you take that chance?
Is it okay to make turns when facing a bus stopped in the opposing lane?
Travis: I don’t think it is wise to make any maneuvers when a school bus is loading or unloading children. There is no way to know where the children will be coming from so a driver should never assume it is okay to turn.
When will an officer pull a driver over for not stopping for a bus?
Travis: An officer will pull someone over if they do not fully stop for a school bus. I’ve also pulled over drivers for speeding up and trying to beat the activation of the stop sign. They can get cited for speeding or other dangerous maneuvers and they can also receive a ticket under VTL 1174(a) if they are have not passed the school bus when the stop sign comes down.
The law is designed to protect kids getting on and off the bus, so violations of the law are zero tolerance in my opinion. I believe most other officers feel the same. They often treat school bus violations as if their own children were involved and handle the situation accordingly.