Good Question: Can I pass a bus with flashing yellow lights?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — This Good Question is about school buses and something that isn’t all that clear for some drivers.

We know sharing roads with buses is a huge safety issue. Every day, the numbers show some 50,000 drivers break the law by illegally passing school buses statewide.

To start, here’s what is crystal clear when you look up the rules:

  • When a bus is stopped with red lights and the stop arm out you have to stop. The law covers traffic going both ways.
  • If a bus is moving and the yellow lights are on you have to slow down and prepare to stop at least 20 feet from the bus.

But what about this scenario Steven asked me about: “Every morning on my way to work I come across stopped school buses with the yellow lights flashing. What is the proper procedure for traffic? Are you supposed to stop, proceed with caution, or what?”

Our team went out and found several examples of this. You’ll see buses sitting idle on the side of streets with yellow flashers on but no pick up or drop off happening.

The Rochester Police Department told me in this case there’s no requirement to stop for yellow. It’s a caution symbol. Obviously, you need to slow down and make sure it’s safe to go around first.

We’ve got the school year winding down so the bus issue won’t be as common. Just keep this in mind for the next time. If you’re caught illegally passing a school bus that’s moving kids, you face fines, possible jail time, and five points on your driving record for each violation.