There’s an entire ecosystem of safety around school buses. This includes road signs, traffic laws, the size, weight and construction of the bus, and the skill of the driver. It also includes the other motorists.

For most motorists, driver’s education classes are a distant memory. With school back in session, it’s important to know the rules when it comes to sharing the road with school buses.

Passing a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing is illegal in Nebraska and all 50 states. In its 2018 national stop arm survey, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services tallied nearly 84,000 stop arm violations in just one day, which equates to more than 15 million illegal passes over the course of a 180-day school year.

This lack of attention by other motorists is causing close calls and injuries to children. It is crucial that we all stay alert as students prepare to board or exit the bus. Here are the five most important rules motorists need to follow to give bus riders a safe start to school.

1. Maintain a safe distance. School buses stop frequently. Leave plenty of distance between your car and the bus in front of you so you can safely apply the brakes once yellow lights start to flash.

2. Stop for stop arms. Red flashing lights and an extended stop arm mean a child is entering or exiting the bus. On two-lane roadways, come to a complete stop (in either direction) until the stop arm and red lights are deactivated.

3. Never pass from behind. Passing a stopped school bus from behind as it loads and unloads children is illegal in all 50 states.

4. Give riders plenty of room. Children are hard to see within the 10-foot area surrounding a school bus. When stopping, help keep children safe by giving them plenty of room to get on or off the bus.

5. Know your state laws. State laws regarding when to pass a stopped school bus on a roadway with four or more lanes can vary. In Nebraska, the only exception occurs when approaching a school bus in the opposite direction on a roadway divided by a median. To learn more, contact your local Department of Motor Vehicles.

Everyone in the community plays a crucial role in ensuring students get to and from school safely each day, so watch for school buses. Be alert, be aware and help keep children safe.

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Lisa Foust is a location manager in Omaha and Council Bluffs for First Student, the leading school transportation solutions provider in North America. First Student’s website has resources for parents and details on First Student operations completing five million student journeys each day, moving more passengers than all U.S. airlines combined.

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