Refresher Course: When do You Need to Stop for a School Bus?


A rash of citations recently in the county prompted me to do some digging into the law. When exactly does someone need to yield to a bus and when exactly don’t they? We all could use a refresher when it comes to the laws about stopping for a school bus. School bus traffic laws are in effect for the safety of children or other passengers entering or leaving a school bus. Students often will be crossing the street at the bus stop, so these laws are extremely important for their safety.

In Ohio, school bus traffic laws vary depending on the size of the road: (Click HERE to see the Ohio Revised Code)

Two-Lane Roads:

  • All traffic must stop for a school bus no matter which direction it’s traveling
  • Traffic must stop at least 10 feet away from the school bus, whether coming from its front or rear

Highways with Four or More Lanes:

  • Only traffic moving in the same direction as the bus must stop when the school bus stops to release passengers
  • Traffic coming from the opposite direction doesn’t have to stop in these instances.
  • Children are dropped off on the same side of the road as their residences, so they won’t have to cross the street

Divided Highways:

  • Divided highways are treated the same as those with four or more lanes
  • Oncoming traffic doesn’t have to stop regardless of how many lanes of traffic there are, but traffic moving in the same direction still has to stop
  • Traffic must stop no less than 10 feet away from the school bus

Waiting for a Stopped School Bus:

  • The wait for a stopped school bus may seem to take a while in some cases
  • The bus driver must wait to resume its travels until all exiting passengers are a safe distance away from the bus

School Bus Safety Requirements for Traffic:

  • A school bus doesn’t have to be equipped with an extending stop safety sign in order for traffic to stop
  • When lights are flashing, this is sufficient to signal drivers that they need to stop, as the bus is loading or unloading passengers
  • Amber and red visual signals are required for a school bus

Violation of School Bus Traffic Laws:

  • Those who violate school bus traffic stop laws may receive up to a $500 fine and could even have their driver’s license suspended

I caught up with Bellefontaine Police Chief Chris Marlow who said that when in doubt, it’s always ok to stop, even when the lights are flashing yellow because they can change to red in a fraction of a second. Marlow also reminds us to focus on the road and what’s happening around us, not being distracted.

Out of curiosity, I went to the Bellefontaine Municipal Court to find out what fines are, should someone stop for a school bus. New Judge, Jacob Estes, doesn’t take this traffic violation lightly. If you are caught passing a bus when the red lights are on, the first thing that is going to happen is you will be cited by law enforcement. After the citation, you will have to attend a mandatory court date at the Municipal Court. This brings a pretty hefty financial obligation. Right off the bat, you will have to pay $100 in court costs, just because you got the citation. Then depending on the circumstances (this is the Judge’s discretion), you will have to pay a fine of some sort. This is just for your first offense. If you should have multiple violations of the law, the consequences multiply each time. Not to mention, two points will be added to your driver’s license for every violation.

In my opinion, I will heed Chief Marlow’s advice, and stop for the school bus, even if the lights are yellow.