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School buses are on the road again – do you know the laws of NJ?

It has been 18 months since some New Jersey residents had to follow or pull over for a school bus on the road.

As children enter an all-in-person school year, you are advised to be aware of the rules of the road regarding school bus vehicles. Not knowing them could put a child’s life at risk, cost you money and damage your driving record.

“Please be aware of the yellow school bus and stop at the stop sign and stop at the warning lights, and watch for children moving around it,” said Evie Wills, administrator of the New Jersey School Bus Contractors Association.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, from 2007 to 2016, 281 school-aged children were killed in school bus-related crashes. Ninety-eight of those victims were pedestrians.

It’s the law

NYC School Bus Drivers on the Verge of Strike

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“25 feet from the bus is closer to safety,” says a pamphlet produced by officials in New Jersey and the United States.

If you are not on a road that separates you from the path of the bus with some type of physical barrier, you are expected to stop at least 25 feet from a stopped school bus with flashing red lights, which you drive in the same direction as the bus or not.

Even if you are on the other side of a divided highway, you must drive 10 mph when approaching a stopped school bus.

Motorists should not travel more than 10 mph in front of a school bus picking up or dropping off students at school (or camp or related activity), given that the destination is on the same side of the road than the bus.

School bus drivers are required to use flashing red lights when their bus is stopped to drop off or pick up students.

Drivers who disobey the rules can expect five points on their license for each violation. A driver caught passing a school bus with its red lights on will be fined at least $100 for a first offense. A second offense is punishable by a fine of at least $250.

Jail or community service is a possibility for improperly passing a school bus in New Jersey.

“Drivers are unable to obey the rules of the road with school buses and students walking and biking to school,” said Tracy Noble, public and government affairs manager for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “While the start of the school year and our roads are different this year, our responsibility to keep students safe has not changed.”

With the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, there could be a few wild cards adding to the risk in the 2021-22 school year, AAA noted. They understand:

  • Staggered schedules and social distancing could mean more school buses on the roads to transport students.
  • Some parents may choose to transport their children to and from school, avoiding the school bus ride, but increasing the volume of vehicles during drop-off and pick-up.
  • More students could walk or cycle to school, which would increase walking and cycling traffic near schools.

Contact reporter Dino Flammia at [email protected]

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