(PIKESVILLE, MD) – As students in Maryland gear up to return to classrooms next week, Maryland State Police and the Maryland Center for School Safety (MCSS) are urging motorists to exercise caution and obey traffic laws concerning school buses.
State law mandates that drivers must stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus displaying a stop arm and flashing red lights. Passing a school bus under these conditions from any direction is prohibited. Drivers can continue once the bus turns off its stop signals and starts moving. However, the law does make an exception for motorists on roads separated by a physical median, like grass, dirt, or a barrier; in these cases, stopping is not required.
The push for greater awareness comes in light of concerning statistics. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2011 to 2020, there were 1,009 fatal school-transportation-related accidents in the United States. The period when children are at highest risk is while getting on or off the school bus. Millions of children nationwide rely on school buses for transportation, making adherence to these laws crucial for their safety.
MCSS is recommending the following guidelines for drivers:
- Remain vigilant, particularly in school zones and during times when school buses are generally on their routes.
- Always stop when a school bus has activated its red flashing lights. It is illegal to bypass the bus under these conditions.
- Prepare to stop when you see a school bus displaying flashing yellow lights, and be cautious of students who may be approaching the bus.
- Since students can be unpredictable, drivers should always maintain a safe distance from school buses.
Drivers who ignore these rules and are caught in the act by a police officer could face hefty consequences. Violations carry a fine of up to $570 and an addition of three points to the driver’s license. Each individual infraction also comes with its own monetary penalty.
For further information and additional school bus safety tips, Marylanders are encouraged to visit the Maryland Highway Safety Office.
As children return to schools and buses fill the roads again, both Maryland State Police and the MCSS reiterate that the safety of the youngest commuters is a shared responsibility that begins with obeying the law.