Stop for a schoolbus with flashing red on a road perpendicular to yours?
September 12, 2016 9:57 PM   Subscribe

Do drivers of a vehicle on a road perpendicular to a road with a school bus stopped with flashing red lights have to stop for that school bus? I'm in Maryland.

The school bus stops on the side road perpendicular to the main road into my development. Some neighborhood busy bodies think that cars on the main road need to stop for the school bus with flashing red lights on the perpendicular side road. Based on my googling the Maryland MVA has to say, the issue isn't addressed, but I wanted to ask in case anyone has better information.

I'd also be curious if any jurisdiction has a law that vehicles on a road perpendicular to a road with a school bus with flashing red lights have to stop for that school bus.
posted by Rob Rockets to Law & Government (17 answers total)
 
I used to live in MD and I don't think a car on the road perpendicular to the bus would need to stop unless the bus is at the corner or the kids are crossing in their path.
I currently live in CA and the laws are the same here.
posted by amapolaroja at 12:02 AM on September 13, 2016


Not that it's necessarily germane, but how far is the bus from the corner?
posted by rhizome at 12:22 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


If the people feel the kids are at risk from cars on the perpendicular road, perhaps if the kids are about to run across it to get home, I would respectfully say that they are not busy bodies. People's kids and their neighbors kids are their business. So no matter what the law is, it is better to just stop.
posted by flourpot at 2:26 AM on September 13, 2016 [5 favorites]


If the bus driver felt it was necessary for the traffic on the main road to stop, they would probably pull out on to the main road before stopping the bus. They would at least need to give some indication that they expect the traffic on the main road to stop. What are you supposed to do, peer down every side road you go by to be sure there isn't a school bus down there?
posted by jkent at 2:44 AM on September 13, 2016 [7 favorites]


rhizome: The bus is usually at or near (10 feet) from the corner.
posted by Rob Rockets at 3:22 AM on September 13, 2016


The Maryland law on school buses says

(a) If a school vehicle has stopped on a roadway and is operating the alternately flashing red lights specified in § 22-228 of this article, the driver of any other vehicle meeting or overtaking the school vehicle shall stop at least 20 feet from the rear of the school vehicle, if approaching the school vehicle from its rear, or at least 20 feet from the front of the school vehicle, if approaching the school vehicle from its front.

(b) If a school vehicle has stopped on a roadway and is operating the alternately flashing red lights specified in § 22-228 of this article, the driver of any other vehicle meeting or overtaking the school vehicle may not proceed until the school vehicle resumes motion or the alternately flashing red lights are deactivated.

(c) This section does not apply to the driver of a vehicle on a divided highway, if the school vehicle is on a different roadway.

This document only concerns cars traveling on the same road as a bus and doesn't address other streets.

It looks like if you're more than 20 feet from the bus when you pass, you're fine (I am not a lawyer, etc.). If not, the last point implies that being on a different roadway is only an excuse if you are on a divided highway.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 3:35 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


Oh, and re: your second question--whether any jurisdiction issue tickets for not stopping on perpendicular streets: yes, New Jersey.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 4:06 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


I would assume that if the bus is past the perpendicular side road intersection (i.e., the bus is to your left at the intersection), and you're turning right onto the main road, then you don't stop.

You should stop if 1) the bus is to your right at the perpendicular side road intersection or 2) the bus is to your left at the intersection and you are turning left onto the main road.
posted by kuanes at 4:15 AM on September 13, 2016


Drivers can't go past the bus's stop sign. So driving alongside it in either direction (unless there's a median). The drivers on the perpendicular road can drive along and even make turns that go away from the bus.
posted by Coffeetyme at 4:49 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


No matter what the law is, it is better to just stop.
No, definitely not. Drivers need to follow the rules; not following the rules of the road is always dangerous.

Have you tried calling the DMV or the non-emergency police in your area?
posted by sockermom at 5:10 AM on September 13, 2016 [21 favorites]


Points to flibbertigibbet for taking the trouble to dig up the statute, but I disagree with his/her statutory interpretation.

The law applies to any other vehicle meeting or overtaking the school vehicle.

This refers to vehicles on the same road as the school bus, going either in the same direction (overtaking) or in the opposite direction (meeting). It doesn't apply to the OP, who is not meeting or overtaking.

the last point implies that being on a different roadway is only an excuse if you are on a divided highway.

No. This means that the other side of a divided hwy is a "different roadway" for purposes of this statute. It doesn't exclude the the OP, who is also on a different roadway.
posted by JimN2TAW at 7:01 AM on September 13, 2016


Searching with the words "school bus stop" and "intersection" brings up this, from the Albany (NY) Times Union (so, about NY state law):
Q: If I am driving on "Main Street" and there is a stopped school bus on a cross street, do I need to stop? How close to the intersection does the bus have to be before I have to stop?
-- Kathleen Carroll, Albany

A: It all depends on whether you're going to pass the bus, said state Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Ken Brown. "The law states that a motorist cannot pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing from either direction (the front or rear) on the same street," he said. If you're approaching a bus from a side street, you only have to stop if you would end up in the path of the bus. "If the driver approaches from a perpendicular street and the path of travel does not pass the stopped bus then a motorist is clear to proceed," Brown said. "If the driver is turning toward the path of the stopped school with its red lights flashing, the driver is required to stop."

He provided some more information from the state Education Department about school bus stops. "Historically, in urban and suburban settings, school bus stops have often been placed at intersections. Research shows real difficulties arise with safely executing intersection stops.[...]Some districts have eliminated intersection stops altogether.

The state Education Department notes that school buses are designed to alert traffic in two directions: behind and in front of the bus. "An intersection involves traffic in two more directions that cannot be alerted," state Ed said. "If a bus releases children who might immediately cross any one of the available streets, the children could be hit by traffic that was not controlled by the bus' red lights.[...]" Those concerns have led the state to recommend buses to stop in the middle of the block in cities. Other stops should be at least 100 feet before the intersection in other settings. [...]
In the Maryland materials I've found, they say you can contact the school district if a bus stop is in an unsafe location, to see about getting it moved. Maybe that's the answer for this bus stop -- if the kids aren't safe with the perpendicular traffic in motion, maybe they should move the bus stop away from the corner.

According to this PDF, there are 8 states that mandate stops when you're approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Washington, Wisconsin.

According to the 2010 NHTSA guide to selecting school bus stop locations:
State and local policies vary regarding corner or intersection stops. This variation is due to differing interpretations of safety issues and their priority, especially as they relate to visibility, traffic conditions, and control of oncoming traffic. Corner stops are considered preferable because they conform with drivers’ expectations to stop at intersections. They also provide a wide area to scan for traffic and students, minimize buses backing up and create more efficient routes. However, corner stops can be considered less preferable due to the inability to easily control all approaching drivers. Some states have noted that if a school bus stop is at an intersection or corner, students should be loaded and unloaded on the far side of the intersection so that the school bus blocks the cross traffic and the stop arm controls the other directions. Although there are advantages and disadvantages for each, perhaps the most important consideration is to avoid locating school bus stops at busy intersections.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:24 AM on September 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


While I can't find any documentation, I do remember reading about a court case where a driver of a car was just driving down a street and hit a child who ran out in front of her car. The driver admitted in court that she did see the kids on the sidewalk before she passed them, and was found guilty because she should have known she needed to exercise a higher degree of caution when kids were around her car. I think about this often when I'm driving around children.
posted by raisingsand at 7:45 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


This came up in MN recently, which has the exact same law as MD.

The law clearly states that you have to stop within 20 feet in front of the bus. If the bus is at a corner stop, you will be passing within 20 feet of the front of the bus if you are on a typical residential, perpendicular street. Seems pretty clear to me that you need to stop.

Interesting how there are so many different interpretations of "20 feet in front of the bus" when those are all objective parts. "20 feet" can be measured and "front" is the front, regardless of how to approach/cross the "front".
posted by TinWhistle at 7:55 AM on September 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


No matter what the law is, it is better to just stop.

No, definitely not. Drivers need to follow the rules; not following the rules of the road is always dangerous.


Abstractly I would agree with sockermom's smart point (above); one should certainly not randomly overcompensate or make new driving rules that would confuse other drivers. but I should have been clearer: In this case the fact that neighbors are complaining about this suggests it's not abstract and that the kids are running across the road. If that's the case, and the driver sees the bus is right on the corner with its lights flashing, then driver should put on a turn signal and pull over. It isn't any more confusing to other drivers to do this then it would be to pull over for a deer about to run across the road, or a child on a bike starting to wobble into the way. If this is in fact a dangerous intersection for kids crossing, be a good neighbor before being legalistic ("busybodies") about it.
posted by flourpot at 5:40 AM on September 14, 2016


In PA, I think the statute is similarly written to only apply to vehicles approaching along the same road from either direction. In Pittsburgh, I have noticed a to-me novel tactic for dealing with the problem that the stop-for-school buses law doesn't apply to drivers on intersecting roads:

Pittsburgh school bus drivers often stop smack in the middle of intersections.
posted by FlyingMonkey at 9:25 PM on September 18, 2016


Thanks for all your input. I emailed Dr. Gridlock, the traffic columnist from the Washington Post, and he confirmed what I thought. There is no law in Maryland that says you have to stop for a school bus if you are driving or a road perpendicular to a stopped school bus.

The reason that this was an issue for me is that a neighbor in our development had said that she was going to start photographing cars and sending the pictures to our county's police department. That would have been wasteful because police resources would potentially be used to investigate what turns out to be no violation of the law, but luckily never became an issue.
posted by Rob Rockets at 7:27 PM on February 16, 2017


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