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'Do I have to stop?': A driver's guide to sharing the road with school buses

Posted at 5:00 AM, Aug 14, 2018

One of the biggest back-to-school challenges can be dusting off the mental cobwebs and making sure you haven't forgotten everything you learned the previous year.

And that's not just true for students, but also for drivers, who have had an entire summer break to forget the rules of the road when it comes to school buses. With school districts all over the Tri-State starting the new school year this week, scores of yellow and black buses will hit the road every morning and afternoon.

Probably the biggest question on drivers' minds when they encounter a school bus on the road: Do I have to stop? It's a natural question, given school buses' frequent stops along roads that sometimes are busy and wide, and other times quiet and narrow.

According to the nonprofit National Safety Council, some 25 million students start and end their day on a school bus. The council stresses that, when it comes to schoolchildren, drivers should never assume they will follow the rules.

"Children are often unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks," the council wrote on its website.

Across Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, most of the rules are the same:

  • In almost every case (see below), when a school bus is signaling it is loading or unloading passengers, all traffic must stop in both directions.
  • The NSC recommends leaving 10 feet between a car and a school bus when stopped. (Ohio law actually mandates this.) This applies on two-lane roads.

There are a couple of variations, however, between the states:

  • In Ohio, motorists traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus on a four-lane road or wider can continue moving, even when the school bus has stopped and triggered its signals.
  • In Kentucky and Indiana, this exception applies only when there is a barrier or median separating a road's two directions.