The middle of August in central Virginia may feel like endless summer, but fall is just around the corner. That means it’s back to school time for kids and parents. Area schools will be back in session over the next couple of weeks, with some even starting this week. We want our kids to be safe as they head back to school, so what better time to review Virginia school bus traffic laws.
Many drivers may not know the laws concerning passing school buses in Virginia, or may have forgotten over time.
When in doubt: stop for a school bus.
You can never go wrong by erring on the side of caution, but let’s take a look at what the law actually says.
§ 46.2-859 of the Code of Virginia states:
“A person driving a motor vehicle shall stop such vehicle when approaching, from any direction, any school bus which is stopped on any highway, private road or school driveway for the purpose of taking on or discharging children, the elderly, or mentally or physically handicapped persons, and shall remain stopped until all the persons are clear of the highway, private road or school driveway and the bus is put in motion.”
There are exceptions to this rule. Drivers do not have to stop if they are driving on a divided highway and are separated from the school bus by a median. You can also pass a stopped school bus if a police officer or school crossing guard directs you to do so. Even if you are legally passing a school bus, you should remain alert and be on the lookout for children making unexpected moves. § 46.2-859 is a reckless driving statute. This offense is considered a class 1 misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and/or a $2,500 fine. A convicted driver may also lose their license for 6 months.
Passing a stopped school bus may also be prosecuted as a civil offense under § 46.2-844. The maximum penalty under this statute is a $250 fine. Drivers can only be prosecuted under one of these statutes for the same offense, not both. Both laws also carry a penalty of six demerit points on your driver’s license.
So, to sum up: If you approach a school bus that is stopped to load or unload passengers, you must stop unless you are separated from the school bus by a median. If you do not do so, you are risking the safety of children as well as very serious penalties.
Now that we all know the Virginia school bus rules, let’s make sure you get your children off to school on time and safely.