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School Bus Safety

School bus safety is a high priority in Pennsylvania. Students, parents, teachers, administrators, transportation personnel and the motoring public all play important roles in keeping our children safe while on or around the school bus.

Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law

  • Motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended.

  • Motorists must stop when they are behind a bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped.

  • Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety.

  • If physical barriers such as grassy medians, guide rails or concrete median barriers separate oncoming traffic from the bus, motorists in the opposing lanes may proceed without stopping.

  • Do not proceed until all the children have reached a place of safety.

The penalties if convicted of violating Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law include:

  • $250 fine
    • When a school bus is equipped with a side stop arm enforcement system and you pass a school bus with its red lights flashing, you may receive a $300 total fine in the mail.

  • Five points on your driving record

  • 60-day license suspension

For more information, review Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law Fact Sheet.

When to stop for school buses

Check out this graphic that helps illustrate Pennsylvania's school bus stopping law.

Animated graphic showing aspects of Pennsylvania's school bus stopping law

Tips for Parents/Students

  • Get to the school bus stop five minutes early so you won't have to run across the road to catch the bus.

  • When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic. Line up at least five giant steps away from the curb or the roadway to wait for the bus.

  • Never run after the school bus if it has already left the bus stop.

  • Never push when getting on or off of the school bus.

  • Always walk at least 10 feet in front of the bus when crossing so that the school bus driver can see you.

  • Be aware — cross with care! Wait until the school bus has stopped all traffic before stepping out onto the road.

  • When the school bus is moving, always stay in your seat. Never put your head, arms or hands out of the window.

  • Talk quietly; do not distract your school bus driver.

  • If your school bus crosses railroad tracks, be calm and quiet so that your driver can listen for a train. Always obey your school bus driver's instructions, so that he or she can make safe decisions.

  • Never play with the emergency exits. Backpacks, band instruments, or sports equipment may not block the aisle or emergency exits. If there is an emergency, listen to the driver and follow instructions.

  • When getting off of the school bus, make sure that all drawstrings and other loose objects are secure so that they don't get caught on the handrail or the door.

  • Never cross the street behind the school bus.

  • If you leave something on the bus or drop something outside of the bus, never go back for it. The driver may not see you and begin moving the bus.

  • Never speak to strangers at the bus stop and never get into the car with a stranger.

Tips for School Bus Drivers

  • Always do a pre-trip inspection prior to every run to check for mechanical defects that could jeopardize safety.

  • Be reliable and dependable — your students count on you every day!

  • Establish a positive relationship with your students. You are the first authority figure they encounter, and you set the tone for the day.

  • Pennsylvania law prohibits children from standing on the bus while the bus is in motion.

  • Check to make sure all of the children unloading from the bus are at a place of safety before deactivating your eight-way light system and moving the school bus.

  • Do not allow children to exit the bus before all traffic has come to a complete stop and the safety equipment has been engaged.

  • After unloading all children at the school or after your last stop, make sure to do a post-trip of your bus and check to make sure that no child has been left on the bus.

  • Pennsylvania law prohibits any items including students from barricading the aisles and the emergency exit.

  • Be prepared to act appropriately in emergency and crash situations. Your actions could mean the difference between life and death.

  • Be sure to provide adequate instruction so that every student is familiar with school bus emergency procedures and equipment use, as well as the safe loading and unloading procedures.

  • Always follow the "Five Alive" Operation Lifesaver steps when approaching a railroad track. For more information, please visit the Operation Lifesaver website.

  • If you see or hear an emergency vehicle, you should be aware that although the emergency vehicle is required to come to a complete stop when it encounters a school bus loading or unloading students, it is legal for it to proceed with caution even if the bus's eight-way light system is still activated, as long as it doesn't risk the safety of the students.

National School Bus Safety Week

Each year, PennDOT participates in National School Bus Safety Week, which will be celebrated this year from Oct. 18-22, 2021. The theme for this year is "1 Bus + 1 Driver = a BIG Impact on Education." For more information on School Bus Safety Week, visit National Association for Pupil Transportation.

Operation Safe Stop

Each year, during National School Bus Safety Week, PennDOT works with Pennsylvania State and municipal police departments to conduct Operation Safe Stop. Operation Safe Stop is a proactive approach to educate the motoring public that passing a stopped school bus, when children are loading or unloading, is dangerous and illegal.

On this day, we hope all school districts will participate by having their drivers document any illegal passes occurring on their routes during the day. If possible, the drivers should get identifying information regarding the vehicle and file the information with local authorities.

School Bus Safety Week Poster Contest

Each year, PennDOT sponsors a school bus safety poster contest for students in kindergarten through eighth grade. The winners of the poster contest are recognized at an event in Harrisburg held every October as part of National School Bus Safety Week. For more information on the contest, and to view previous winners, click here.

School Bus Driver Safe Driving Competition

The Pupil Transportation Association of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania School Bus Association hold a Pennsylvania School Bus Driver Safe Driving Competition every June to test school bus drivers' knowledge of safety rules and safe operation of their buses in two types of bus categories: conventional and transit. A first-, second- and third-place winner is chosen in each category. The six winners of the competition are also recognized at an event held during National School Bus Safety Week. Approximately 100 school bus drivers from across Pennsylvania participate in the competition each year.

Love the Bus

In 2007, the American School Bus Council organized the Love the Bus campaign/program to raise awareness regarding school transportation and safety nationwide. It is also an opportunity to honor the many school bus drivers that safely transport students to and from school every day. In many areas of the country, Love the Bus events are held on or around Valentine's Day. For more information about Love the Bus, visit Love the Bus.

Transportation for Students with Special Needs

The Traffic Injury Prevention Project sponsored by PennDOT provides school districts, school bus contractors, hospitals, pediatricians, parents and other health care providers with the most current information about the atypical transportation needs of children with special health care needs, teen parents, special education students and the preschool population. Information is available for passenger vehicles, school buses/vehicles, as well as, wheelchairs and child passenger safety restraints.

For more information, please call 1-800-CAR-BELT.