Texas recognizes the danger of passing a school bus while students are boarding it or getting off of it. That’s the rationale behind strict enforcement and harsh penalties when drivers are caught passing them when it’s prohibited. When this type of bus is stopping or stopped on a road to allow students to board it or exit it, the driver of the bus must activate all flashing warning lights required by law. Other equipment like stop signs that are intended to alert other drivers to the fact that the bus is stopping to allow students to board it or exit it must also be activated. Your duty to comply with the legal requirement to stop for the bus is triggered when those lights go on. Be careful. Many buses have cameras on their stop signs to record information on cars that illegally pass.
When you can move again
Texas Transportation Code section 545.066 addresses when drivers can move again. Any driver approaching the bus from ahead of it or behind it must come to a complete stop before reaching it. He or she is required to stay stopped until:
- The bus starts moving again
- The bus driver signals that it’s safe to move
- All signals on the bus are no longer activated
As long as the lights on the bus are activated and you’re approaching it, you’re required to stop. This rule applies even if you’re in a rural area.
If a highway has separate roadways, approaching drivers aren’t required to stop so long as the bus is on a separate roadway with a median, island or divider between the directions of traffic. Left turn lanes aren’t classified as any of those. Motorists in left turn lanes are required to stop in accordance with the law. Drivers aren’t required to stop if the bus is on a controlled access road though. Many schools have specific loading zones for children arriving at or departing from school. Drivers aren’t required to stop when they see children and buses in those zones. Make sure you’re driving at the school zone speed limit though, as you’ll get a different citation.
Penalties for School Bus Passing
Never pass one of these very conspicuous big yellow buses when its red lights are flashing. It doesn’t matter if children aren’t getting on it or off of it. If you get a ticket, and you’re found guilty or plead guilty, fines can be as low as $500 and as high as $1,250. A second offense that’s committed within five years of a prior conviction is likely to result in a six-month driver’s license suspension along with a fine of not less than $1,000 and not more than $2,000. If while committing the offense, a person causes serious bodily harm to somebody else, a conviction is a class A misdemeanor. If that conviction occurs within five years of a prior conviction, you become a convicted felon.
Anybody cited with a ticket for passing a school bus in or around Ft. Worth should seek a consultation and case evaluation from a traffic ticket attorney right away. The possible consequences are simply too severe.