School Bus Laws: When to stop and when not to!

School Bus Laws

Many drivers are confused about the exact school bus laws and proper right of way rules. In fact, it is estimated that over 50,000 motorists illegally pass busses every single day. To make matters even worse, different states have different laws and the laws can be pretty confusing.

School Bus Right Of Way Rules For Non-Divided Highways

In almost all states, it is law to stop for a stopped child carrying bus whether you are approaching or are behind the bus on a non-divided roadway. An exception to this rule is Washington State where you may pass a stopped bus as long as the roadway is 3 lanes or more and you are in an opposing lane. The same holds true in Ohio when a roadway has 4 lanes or more. But in every other state, as long as you are on a non-divided roadway, you must stop for a bus unloading school children.

School Bus Right Of Way Rules For Divided Highways

On a divided highway, you do not have to stop for a stopped school bus, even if the lights are flashing, as long as you are in the opposing traffic lanes. This is true for all states except:

  • West Virginia
  • Arkansas – When the divider is less than 20ft wide
  • Mississippi
  • New York State

Check out these images below to help you better understand proper school bus right of way procedures:

School Bus Laws

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  • Lily choo

    I passed by a stop school bus, but it hasn’t pull out the stop sign and the red light until I passed by it. On the bus has camera and took picture of my plate. I got violation for that. Do you think I should fight for it in the court ? Because the bus hasn’t pull the stop sign after I passed by it. Please give me your opinion.

    • Mike

      Hi Lily – Yes, if the bus did not have the stop sign out or the red lights flashing when you passed the bus, I would strongly consider fighting the ticket.

      • Lily choo

        Thank you for answer my question so quickly. However, I’m still concern, because on the violation they sent me there are pictures of the stop sign with the red light is slowly pull out when I passed by (about 2.5 second according from the violation paper). This is my 1st school bus violation so I’m very anxious. How many percent do you think I can ask for reduce or dismiss?

        • Mike

          Hi Lily – It’s pretty tough to say, but if you have a clean driving record I am confident you can work out a deal with the court to avoid having your driving record tarnished. Usually you can take a traffic school to accomplish this, but it will ultimately be up to the local court and judge.

          • Lily choo

            Thank you!!!!

  • BigGreenSpinner

    Image #2 of MultiLane traffic being required to stop is inaccurate (at least for Ohio it’s wrong). Page 42 of the Traffic Digest ( points out that on a 4 lane road only traffic going the same direction as the bus must stop. This is because school buses are required to pick up on the residence side of traffic when there are 4 lanes.

    • Mike

      Hey thanks for this excellent info! One of the many issues facing school bus laws (and many other driving laws) is that each state has their own rules. The rules posted on this page is accurate for MOST states, but obviously not all as you have pointed out.

      This article definitely needs to be updated to help separate out the rules by different states. Thanks for bringing this up and helping me to improve the site! I should have this updated in the next week or two.

  • Little Bear

    North Carolina allows the traffic going in opposite direction of bus on a multiplane roadway with a turn lane to NOT have to stop and what about the turn lane North Carolina? Way to not care about student safety. This site confirms this stupidity. › sbswlaw

  • Dean J Voss

    I was on a back road in Rumson NJ and came to an intersection. The school bus was going north and I was going east on the other street. We both stopped as the children were exiting the bus to my right and crossing the street on my right and not crossing in front of me. I was going to make a left turn away from the bus and one mother watching the kids crossing the street told me “If you don’t stop I’m calling the cops”. I was stopped at the time she when she yelled that out to me. My question, is it legal to for me to stop and then make the left turn while the kids are crossing on the right side of the intersection ?

    • Dean J Voss

      Can someone reply please ???