In some neighborhoods in Pennsylvania, school buses are an everyday part of life, especially for those who live or commute close to schools. When you are in a rush, coming upon a school bus with its lights flashing can be an annoyance, especially when the lights remain flashing for what feels like an unreasonable amount of time. Furthermore, school buses in Pennsylvania have two different kind of flashing lights: red lights and amber lights. Which leads some drivers to wonder whether there are times when it is appropriate to not yield to a school bus. While there are times when that is indeed the case, drivers in PA must understand that violating the state law on yielding to school buses not only opens them up to an expensive fine, but can also result in a criminal offense which will go on their criminal record, available to future employers and others who conduct background checks.
When Yielding to a School Bus in PA is Required
Whenever a school bus is flashing its red lights, other drivers in either direction are required to stop at least ten feet before meeting or overtaking that bus. Drivers should remain stopped for as long as the red lights remain on, which bus drivers are required to keep engaged for the entire time it takes for children or disabled persons riding the bus to get to a safe place. If the bus is stopped at an intersection, then other vehicles should remain stopped on the other side of the intersection.
If a driver does either pass the bus from behind or pass by it from the oncoming direction, the police can stop you for a criminal infraction. If no police are present, the bus driver is instructed to take down your car’s information and deliver this information to the local police authority to issue a citation and summons, and local prosecutors may begin a criminal action against you. Although there is no jail time for violating the school bus law, it can nevertheless result in a $250 fine and criminal conviction which can damage your reputation and career prospects for years.
When Yielding to a School Bus in Not Required
When a school bus is signalling its amber lights, that means the bus is preparing to stop within several hundred feet. Although it is not illegal to pass a bus with amber lights flashing, amber lights are immediately followed by red lights, so taking action to pass or meet a bus with amber lights flashing means that the driver risks passing or meeting the bus when the lights have actually turned red. Thus, drivers are encouraged to stop when a bus activates its amber lights to avoid criminal liability. If the amber lights are flashing and the bus is stopped, drivers should also stop to avoid criminal liability.
In addition, if you are travelling in the opposite direction of a bus, and you are on the opposite side of a “divided highway” – meaning there is a physical division between the opposing lanes of traffic, such as “concrete/metal barriers, guide rails or trees/rocks/streams/grass median” – then you do not have to stop for a bus with flashing red lights, but you are encouraged to slow down.
Speak with a PA Defense Attorney Today
If you have been cited for passing a school bus or are facing liability for other alleged civil or criminal offenses, the attorneys at The Martin Law Firm, P.C., in Montgomery County are here to help through exploring all available legal strategies in your defense. Call us today to schedule a consultation with a PA defense attorney regarding any civil or criminal actions you are facing in PA.