Know the law: stopping for school buses

Published 3:23 pm Tuesday, August 29, 2017

It’s that time of year again as our children and grandchildren return to school. Most of us are confused about when the law requires you to stop for a school bus.

When a school bus is stopped with its lights flashing or arm extended for the purpose of discharging or receiving students, you have a duty to stop your vehicle regardless of your lane of travel. There are two exceptions to this rule when you are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus: 1) If the road you are traveling has a minimum of five travel lanes (one of which can be a center turn lane); or 2) the highway is divided by a median, regardless of the number of travel lanes. You must always stop if you are behind the bus and traveling in the same direction.

Here are a few examples to hopefully clear up any confusion.

Scenario No. 1: You are traveling east on U.S. Highway 264 between Washington and Greenville near the Pitt County line. You approach a stopped school bus from the opposite direction that has its lights flashing and arm extended for discharging students. The highway has four travel lanes, with a grass median in between. Must you stop? NO. You do not have to stop when the highway is divided by a median. But keep in mind you must always stop when you are traveling in the same direction as the bus.

Scenario No. 2: You get behind a school bus on 15th Street in Washington near Oakdale Cemetery. There are four lanes of travel. The bus is traveling in the outside lane, and your vehicle is in the inside lane. The bus stops to discharge students, again with lights/arm. Must you stop? YES. This is true even if you were traveling in the opposite direction because there are only four lanes and no median.

Scenario No. 3: You are traveling west on U.S. 264 from Belhaven toward Washington. A school bus is traveling east and stops near Beaufort County Community College to pick up students with proper lights/arm. There are five travel lanes, one of which is a center turn lane. Must you stop? NO. Keep on trucking. Again, you must always stop when you are traveling in the same direction as the bus.

Lastly, when in doubt, STOP. Better to be safe than sorry! Have a great school year.

Seth Edwards is the district attorney for Beaufort, Hyde, Martin, Tyrrell and Washington counties.