Passing A School Bus: Tips for Avoiding a Big Traffic Ticket

The school year is just beginning in districts across the state, which means school busses will be resuming their normal routes through all of Georgia’s neighborhoods. According to the 2012 Transportation Review by the National Conference of State Legislatures, there are an estimated 24 child fatalities each year involving school busses. Two-thirds of these fatalities involve vehicles that fail to stop for a school bus and pedestrians who get struck on their way to or from a school bus stop. Most of those who are killed are between the ages of 5 and 7 years old.

To keep our children safe and help drivers avoid major fines, it’s important to review the laws that govern passing a school bus. There are very specific rules that drivers must follow when meeting or overtaking a school bus (O.C.G.A. § 40-6-163). In most cases, all traffic on both sides of the street are required to stop when a school bus turns on its flashing lights and extends its stop sign.

Violating these laws may result in fines as high as $1,000 and other penalties such as a mandatory court appearance, six points added to the driver’s record, and a potential license suspension for drivers under the age of 21 years old.

To ensure there is no confusion on the law, here is a breakdown of the specific circumstances for passing a school bus when a school bus has flashing lights and/or an extended stop sign arm:

  • Two Lane Road – All lanes of traffic in both directions must come to a complete stop.
  • Two Lane Road with a Center Turn Lane – Just like a traditional two lane road, all lanes of traffic must come to a complete stop. Additionally, the turning lane should not be used in close proximity to the stopped bus.
  • Four Lane Road without a Center Divider – Regardless of the size of the road, all traffic in both directions must stop if there is no barrier along the centerline.
  • Divided Highway of Four or More Lanes with a Center Median – With the presence of a divided center median, only traffic that is following the school bus is required to stop. Oncoming traffic can continue normal movement.
  • Passing on the Right – Never pass a stopped bus on the right, regardless of whether it appears to be letting children on or off. The exit of a bus is located on the right, and passing on this side has a higher likelihood of tragic results.

In terms of traffic risks associated with school busses, children are most vulnerable when getting on and off a school bus. Unfortunately, it’s common for children to dart into traffic without recognizing the danger.

In addition to ensuring Georgia drivers are well educated on the laws that are designed to help minimize the risk of an accident, parents are encouraged to teach their children about the proper way to get to the bus, on the bus, and off the bus. This includes walking with them to the bus stop and identifying the best route; showing them where to stand when the bus is approaching; and explaining the importance of taking 5 giant steps along the sidewalk and making eye contact with the driver before stepping in front of the bus to head home.


At Andersen, Tate & Carr, our attorneys are dedicated to reaching the best possible outcome for our clients. Our criminal defense attorneys, Patrick McDonough and Trinity Hundredmark, have combined experience of more than 30 years representing clients facing criminal charges in Georgia. For more information, or to request a case evaluation, contact our law office at 1-770-822-0900.