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To Stop or Not to Stop; What a School Bus's Flashing Red Lights Mean

As schools are once again open, drivers often forget the meanings of the lights a bus flashes. We all want children getting on and off the bus to be safe and no one wants an expensive traffic ticket for failure to stop when required by law.

You had to learn when to stop and when it was okay not to stop for the California State Driver's Exam, but many people forget how many lanes must be between the bus and a car before the car can proceed without stopping, and others forget that yellow lights are merely a signal that the bus is about to stop, not that a driver will be ticketed if they do not stop.

So, to set the record straight:

All vehicles must stop in either direction if a bus is flashing red lights. The law requires your vehicle to remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing (CVC §22454). If you do not stop, you could be fined up to $1,000 and your driver's license suspended for one year. If the school bus is on the other side of a divided or multilane highway (two or more lanes in each direction), you are not required to stop. School buses flashing yellow lights are a warning that it is preparing to stop to give you time to slow down.

When you see a bus approaching you from the opposite direction and children waiting on the bus, the best practice is to slow down and be prepared to stop. Some bus drivers are courteous and will simply throw the yellow lights on until a vehicle has passed - they understand that people have to get to work and to appointments.

If you do receive a ticket for a passing a school bus, it is possible to fight and win, but you need an experienced traffic ticket lawyer to help.