Sharing the road with school buses
School is back in session throughout Garfield County. As you embark on your daily commutes, keep an eye out for children using crosswalks or traveling on bicycles.
In addition, make sure you observe Colorado’s traffic laws with regards to pedestrians and school buses. Most drivers understand they must stop for stationary school buses with flashing red lights, but there are some additional aspects of this law you may not be aware of. Did you know a school bus driver is required by law to report violator vehicle information to their dispatcher?
Let’s take a closer look at the statutes by first examining the requirement to stop. Colorado Revised Statutes state the following:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1903 (1) (a): The driver of a motor vehicle upon any highway, road or street, upon meeting or overtaking from either direction any school bus that has stopped, shall stop the vehicle at least 20 feet before reaching the school bus if visual signal lights on the bus are activated. The driver shall not proceed until the visual signal lights are no longer being actuated.
The visual signal lights being referred to consist of eight alternating red lights. School bus drivers are required to actuate these red lights when the bus is stopped to load or unload children. Alternating flashing yellow lights must be actuated at least 200 feet prior to the point where the bus is to be stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading children.
If a school bus driver observes a violator while stopped for loading or unloading children, the driver must report the violator. The statute regarding this responsibility states the following:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1903 (1) (b): The driver of any school bus who observes a violation of paragraph (a) of this subsection shall notify the driver’s school district transportation dispatcher. The driver shall provide the dispatcher with the color, basic description and license plate number of the vehicle involved in the violation, information pertaining to the identity of the alleged violator, and the time and approximate location at which the violation occurred.
This information must be relayed to law enforcement for appropriate action. Per statute, law enforcement may issue the violator a citation based on the information provided by the school district. Passing a stopped school bus is a Class 2 Traffic Misdemeanor, which requires a mandatory court summons. If convicted, the violator will have 6 points added to their Colorado driver’s license. The maximum sentence for this offense is 90 days in jail, or a $300 fine, or both.
I’m often asked if motorists are required to stop for school buses on divided highways. The answer depends on which side of the highway you are traveling on. There is a specific statute for this situation, which states the following:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1903 (4): The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway. For the purposes of this section, “highway with separate roadways” means a highway that is divided into two or more roadways by a depressed, raised or painted median or other intervening space.
In summary, you are still required to stop if you are traveling on the same side of the divided highway as the school bus.
Stay alert, stay focused, and stay safe during the school year. Never operate a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Ask yourself: “is it worth the loss of a life?”
Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol’s Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs. The Vehicular Crimes Unit is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.