Pay attention! We’ve all heard that from our parents when we were kids and we’ve all said that to our kids as parents. There’s something about not always paying attention to what we’re doing that gets us in trouble. One of my kids gets distracted often and we have to keep reminding him to watch what he’s doing. We often say he gets distracted because he’s seen something shiny. Was this the case with the driver in this photo? Were they unable to focus on the school bus because they saw something shiny?
Depending on the jurisdiction you live in, the stopping distance from a school bus with their lights flashing and the stop arm out will vary. When approaching from behind the bus, you need to stop well back, in some case 20 metres from the rear of the bus, which will allow the driver of the bus to see you in their mirrors so they can safely let the kids off the bus. Approaching the bus from the opposite direction, you must stop far enough away that will allow the kids to safely cross the street to get on or off the bus. This is the general rule in most jurisdictions, but check your jurisdiction to ensure you’re making the correct choices. The only time you wouldn’t have to stop when approaching from the opposite direction is if there is a median down the centre of the road.
Now that we know the rules, how did the driver in this photo almost miss the stopped bus? I was first in line when I saw the lights begin to flash and was able to make a safe, smooth stop. While waiting for the school bus, I was also checking my mirror and saw this driver approaching from the inside lane at a speed that didn’t look like they were going to stop. At the last second, they hit their bakes and stopped just in time.
I know that we should always try to use a lane that has the best flow, but looking well ahead can give you more information than just assuming stopped traffic means the lead driver is waiting to make a left turn. The flashing lights of a school bus are easily seen over the tops of the stopped vehicles. Moving your eyes from side to side will also help to give you the big picture. If you’re ever doubtful as to why traffic is stopped in the next lane, reduce speed and look for someone who may pull into your lane or for a pedestrian to walk between the stopped vehicles. There’s no reason to fly down the lane like this driver did.
The fines and demerit points alone for passing a stopped school bus with their lights flashing and stop arm out are severe enough to annoy any driver, but the thought of hitting a child as they walked out from on front of the bus send shivers down my spine, as I’m sure it does with you.
Protect our future society and pay attention to all things that may affect your driving, including shiny things like school buses.