It’s that time of year. Lunches are packed and backpacks are stashed with supplies. The kids are going back to school, which means buses will rule the roads across New Orleans. Are you up to date on the most recent laws and guidelines surrounding Louisiana school bus safety for drivers, though? At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, we care about the children in our community. That’s why we’ve compiled a list of important school bus safety tips designed to keep everyone safe. Here's what you need to know going into this school year, whether you're a parent or simply another driver on the roads.

Why is Louisiana school bus safety so important?

As the summer months fly by, it’s easy to get used to a fast morning commute. No more crowded streets or busy sidewalks.

When fall rolls around, though, everything changes. Students flock to bus stops, waiting for that big yellow bus. About 25 million students across the country ride the bus to and from school every day.

According to studies completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, this is the safest method of transportation for children. Students of all ages are 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. This is because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road. They’re designed with the highest safety standards in mind. And, traffic laws exist specifically to keep them safe.

Want to do your part to maintain a safe commute for students? These are the school bus traffic laws that other drivers must follow.

1. Come to a full stop when children are loading or unloading

Every state in the U.S. has laws surrounding this topic. When a bus is loading or unloading children, you must come to a full and complete stop. Generally, the bus will display red flashing lights in addition to a stop-arm sign that extends out from the left side of the bus. This is your signal to stop immediately.

If you see yellow flashing lights on a school bus up ahead, this is an indication that the bus will be coming to a stop soon. In general, the driver will turn on this signal no less than 100 feet before stopping. When you see these lights, you should begin to slow down.

Violating these stop-arm laws can be dangerous and costly. For a violation that does not involve the injury of another person, you could face fines of up to $500 and may be subject to a driver’s license suspension. Violations involving serious injury or death can lead to increased fines and jail time in addition to suspension of your driver’s license.

2. Stop, even if you're on the other side of the road

This is where drivers tend to be confused about how to proceed. Do I still have to stop when I’m driving on the opposite side of the road? In short, the answer is yes.

You must make a full and complete stop if the red lights are flashing and the stop-arm sign is on display. The only exception is when the bus is on the opposite side of a clearly divided highway. When it comes to the definition of a clearly divided highway, the law varies by state. In Louisiana, the roadway must be separated by a concrete barrier, ditch, or grassy median.

It’s also important to note an exception regarding specified loading zones. If the bus is completely off the roadway and pedestrians are not allowed to cross, you do not have to stop.

3. Leave plenty of distance between your car and the bus

The area ten feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for students. With this in mind, Louisiana law dictates how much space you must leave between your car and a school bus.

Stop thirty feet away from a bus that is loading and unloading students or displaying red flashing lights along with a stop-arm sign.

This is the best way to ensure that you are out of the bus driver’s blind spots. It will also provide you with a better view of any children who may be attempting to cross.

4. Do your research and stay updated

Stay aware of the school bus schedule in your area. Take note of when you see children out and about near bus stops. Find out when buses arrive and depart in the areas along your commute.

In general, there are about three hours in the morning and three hours in the afternoon when you may see school buses traveling along school routes. Keep this in mind as you go about your daily routine.

5. Always be on the lookout

Before backing out of your driveway, pause to take a look around your street. Are children making their way to the bus stop? Are parents walking back from drop-offs with younger children?

The morning can be hectic for everybody. Children running to catch the bus can appear quickly and with little warning. It’s essential to pause and take a look at your surroundings before you proceed. Approach every stop sign with the same caution.

6. Slow down in neighborhoods and school zones

Kids will gather at local bus stops across your community, sometimes spilling into the streets. Their safety should be your number one priority.

Reduce your speed as much as possible in neighborhoods and school zones. Speed limits are often as low as 15 miles per hour in these areas, and for good reason.

The chances of getting into an accident are less likely if you’re going slow enough to see a potential hazard. Plus, accidents that take place while traveling at a low rate of speed are less likely to be severe or life-threatening.

7. Talk to your children about school bus safety

While pedestrians always have the right-of-way, some drivers simply don’t follow the law. Educating your children on school bus safety will help them remain vigilant when they’re getting to and from school.

Here are some important tips if you have children of your own:

  • Remain visible at all times. If they must cross in front of a bus, make eye contact with the driver and leave plenty of space. Never walk behind the bus.
  • Be on time. No one likes to miss the bus, but it’s more important to stay safe. Running late can cause students to move too quickly and with little regard for who or what is around them. Encourage your child to get out the door as early as possible for a safe walk to the bus stop.
  • Keep a safe distance. Stand several feet away from the curb at all times. Don’t engage in games or playing in or near the street. Wait for the bus to come to a stop before approaching to board.

Find support after a school bus related accident

At Huber Thomas & Marcelle, our hope is to create safer communities, especially when it comes to matters that involve children. Unfortunately, accidents happen and drivers make mistakes.

If you or your child has been in a school bus related accident, we can help. Our goal is to treat every client with the same care we would expect for our own families. In addition to Louisiana, members of our team are licensed to practice in Mississippi, Texas, Washington D.C. and New York.

Contact us to find out how we can provide guidance and support when you need it the most.