Tragedies occur when drivers and pedestrians don’t know or follow the rules of the road. Across the nation more than 230 million children begin and end the day on a school bus, so with buses and children crowding the streets again, reviewing the “rules of the road” from the Maryland Department of Transportation’s State Highway Administration (SHA) and local safety partners can help save lives.
Keeping children safe in designated school zones is a top priority. School zones are often marked with yellow-green signing, and indicated times of reduced speed during school arrival and dismissal times.
As a driver the most important thing you can do to protect children in school zones is to slow down.
Parents, teachers and drivers not only have the responsibility of safely sharing the road with other motorists, school buses, pedestrians and cyclists, but they also have the added duty of teaching children about traffic safety.
- On average, two school-aged pedestrians are killed every year during school arrival and dismissal times.
- On average, more than 150 school-aged pedestrians are injured during school arrival and dismissal times.
Rules You Need to Know
When driving near school buses, remember:
- It is against the law to pass a stopped school bus while its lights are flashing and its stop arm is extended.
- On undivided roadways, with no physical barrier or median, vehicles must stop on both sides of the roadway.
- Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
- Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and children are getting on or off. Motorists approaching from either direction must wait until the red lights stop flashing before proceeding.
- Learn and obey the "alternately flashing warning light" system that school bus drivers use to alert motorists.
Please share these tips with your children if he or she is walking to school or taking the school bus.
When riding the school bus:
- Have a safe place to wait for your bus, away from traffic and the street.
- Stay away from the bus until it comes to a complete stop and the driver signals you to enter.
- When being dropped off, exit the bus and walk ten giant steps away from the bus. Keep a wide distance between you and the bus. Also, remember that the bus driver can see you best when you are away from the bus.
- If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk at least ten feet ahead of the bus along the side of the road, until you can turn around and see the driver.
- Make sure that the driver can see you.
- Wait for a signal from the driver before beginning to cross. When the driver signals, walk across the road, keeping an eye out for sudden traffic changes.
- Do not cross the centerline of the road until the driver has signaled that it is safe for you to begin walking.
- Be aware of the street traffic around you. Drivers are required to follow certain rules of the road concerning school buses, however, not all do. Protect yourself and be on the look out
- Use the handrail to enter and exit the bus.
- There should be no drawstrings on hoods or around the neck. Drawstrings at the waist or bottom of the jacket should extend no more than 3 inches to prevent catching in car or bus doors or on playground equipment.
When walking to school:
- Cross the street at marked crosswalks and intersection whenever possible.
- Always stop at the curb or the edge of the road and look left, then right, and then left again before crossing. Continue looking in this manner until you are able to cross safely.
- With your parents, choose the quickest and safest route with the fewest street crossings.
- Use intersections with crossing guards when possible.
- If vision is blocked by a parked car or other obstacle, pedestrians should move out to where drivers can see them and they can see other vehicles -- then stop, and look left-right-left again.
- Obey and follow all traffic signals and/or the crossing guard.
- Never cross the street against a light, even if you don't see any traffic coming.
- Walk your bike through intersections.
- Walk with a buddy.
- Wear reflective material...it makes you more visible to street traffic.
Tips for parents and other motorists:
- Stop for pedestrians at crosswalks – it’s Maryland State Law. Crosswalks exist at all intersections – even if they are unmarked.
- Remember pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks; motorists must yield to them when turning. Stop for pedestrians when making a right-turn-on-red or left-turn on full green, leaving enough room at intersections so that pedestrians can cross safely.
- Drivers must vigilantly watch the roadway at all times, and always follow the speed limit, which may be lowered in designated school zones.
- Drivers need to remember the unpredictability of children and be on the look out for all pedestrians.
- And remember, make sure you and your passengers are buckled up properly. Seat belts are your number one defense in a crash.
School Bus Laws
- If a school bus has stopped and is operating the alternately flashing red lights, all drivers meeting, or overtaking the school bus shall stop at least 20 feet from the school bus.
- Motorists may not proceed until the school bus either turns off the flashing red lights or resumes motion. This law does not apply to motorists on a divided highway, if the school bus is on the opposite side of a divided highway from the motorist. A divided highway means a highway that is divided into two or more roadways by an intervening space or barrier, such as a concrete or grassy median.
- School bus drivers may report a violation of the above code section.
- Only a vehicle registered as a Class M vehicle, that is used to transport children between one or more schools or licensed child care centers or to and from designated areas and is designed for carrying 15 passengers or less must have seat belts and or child safety seats for each of the occupants as required by Maryland’s child safety seat laws.
Current School Zone Laws
- In general, the Code sets certain speed limit maximums, depending upon on the particular roadway, which is applicable to both public and private school zones.
However, the Code also provides either the State Highway Administration or a local authority the ability to establish a school zone around any school and set maximum speed limits for that particular school zone.
- 30 mph in business districts and on undivided highways in residential districts.
- 50 mph on undivided highways, other than in residential districts.
- 55 mph on divided highways.
- School zones must be designated by signs and may include flashing lights.
- Signs designating a school zone indicate the maximum speed limit applicable.
- A sign may also be posted indicating that fines for speeding in the school zone are doubled.
- In a school zone where a crossing guard is posted, the maximum may not exceed 35 mph during the hours posted on the sign.