It’s back to school time – be aware of bus passing and school zone traffic laws
August 21, 2012


As the summer of 2012 winds down, last minute vacations are being held and back to school is on the minds of families across Pennsylvania.  Back to school brings new changes, new excitement and with this comes more accidents.  All too often we have seen tragic news reports about an errant driver rushing to get to work and an excited child running across the street to catch the bus.  With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the traffic laws for school bus passing and school zones speed limits.

Passing a school bus:

The Requirements:

When a driver approaches a school bus with its red lights flashing the driver must stop at least 10 feet before reaching the school bus.  The driver must remain stopped until the red lights are deactivated.   This rule applies to drivers approaching an intersection where the bus is stopped.  A bus driver is required to activate the amber lights at least 150 feet  prior to stopping the bus, but no more than 300 feet in advance of the stop.

Reporting a violation:

If a school bus driver sees a violation occur, the bus driver may prepare a written report indicating that a violation has occurred.  The report should include:

  1. A description of the driver
  2. The license plate number and the color of the vehicle involved in the violation
  3. Time and location of the incident
  4. The type of vehicle that was involved in the incident

The bus driver should give the written report to the police department that has jurisdiction over the area where the incident occurred.  If the officer believes a violation has occurred, he may issue a citation to the driver.

Penalty for violation:

Upon conviction, a driver is guilty of a summary violation and a fine of $250.  Additionally, the driver is subject to 5 points on their license and an automatic license suspension of 60 days.  Given the serious nature of the penalties, violations of this statute have been rather heavily litigated in the past and a driver is advised to consult an attorney about possible defenses before pleading guilty to this offense.

School Zone speeds

The speed limit during an active school zone is 15 mph.  If a person is convicted of this offense, he is guilty of a summary offense and a fine of $35.  Additionally, if the person is convicted of traveling in excess of 26 miles per hour he can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $500.   The driver is also subject to 3 points on their license and, for second or subsequent offenses, an automatic 60 day license suspension.

The Point System

Given the stiff penalties involved with school bus and school zone infractions, a driver convicted of these offenses needs to be aware of the point system.  Once a driver accumulates 6 points, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation will require the driver to attend a driver improvement school or pass a special examination administered by PennDOT.  Upon successful completion, two (2) points are removed from the driver’s record.  Additionally, points removed at the rate of 3 points for each 12 consecutive violation free months from the date of the violation. For more information about the Pennsylvania DOT Point System, see PennDOT’s guide.