Six rules for driving near school buses

You’re taking a walk near an elementary school and you notice a car pass a school bus that is about to come to a stop. The danger is obvious to everyone. When you’re behind the wheel, do you follow all the rules around the orange school buses? To make sure that you do, let’s go over them together!

Safety, it’s worth talking about

In 2019, according to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), nearly half of Canadians say they witnessed a distracted driver in a school zone. Is the daily grind causing people to forget about the safety rules that should be adopted around school buses?

1. Know when to slow down

When a school bus activates its red flashing lights, you know exactly what it will do next – it will stop. It may be stopping in front of a crossing, but more often than not, school kids are about to get on or off the bus. You should therefore slow down and prepare to stop.

2. Stop at the right place, at the right time.

When the bus driver activates the flashing lights and extends the stop sign arm, come to a stop immediately. You must then stay at least five metres away from the school bus. This applies both when you are behind the vehicle, or facing it from the opposite direction.

One exception : You don’t need to come to a full stop if the bus is in another lane that is separated by a median wall. Kids can stand in this space as they wait to cross the street.

3. Never drive past a school bus that has activated its flashing lights

You must come to a stop in this situation, so driving past the bus is forbidden! Penalties vary based on your province of residence. In Prince Edward Island, for example, driving past a bus when its lights are flashing would cost you your driver’s licence and a fine of up to $5,000.

In Quebec, this dangerous move costs drivers nine demerit points and a fine ranging from $200 to $300.

In all cases, regardless of location, this behaviour has severe consequences given the risks.

4. Obey road signs in school zones

Road signs located near schools make drivers aware of school crossings and the speed limit. These restrictions usually apply Monday to Friday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., from September to June.

Did you know?

  • In school zones, speeding fines can double.
  • Instructions from school crossing guards overrule road signs.

5. Expect the unexpected

Always drive safely around schools, whether buses have their flashing lights on or not, especially during peak school hours. Kids are, after all, just kids. One of the little firecrackers can suddenly pop up between you and a school bus to catch a drawing that got caught in a gust of wind or another precious object.

6. Lead by example and keep your little ones informed

If you have kids, then you know how much they learn from you. Your behaviour around school buses will make an impact on how they behave in dangerous situations. Talk to them about safety and encourage them to adopt good habits. For example, if your child drops something near or under a bus, he or she should never try picking it up without the driver's permission.

By following the best practices near school buses, you’re not just obeying the law. You’re also keeping hundreds of school children safe. What could be more important?