The new school year rapidly approaches. It won’t be long before the back-to-school sales turn into back-to-school drives featuring those large, bright yellow carriers of schoolchildren, the school bus. One rule of the road that is often met with confusion deals with school buses. Specifically, when does one, as the driver of another vehicle, have to stop for a school bus when the red lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is extended?
The specific legal statute that deals with stopping for a school bus is listed explicitly in the California vehicle code.
CHAPTER 8. Special Stops Required [22450 – 22456]
22454.(a) The driver of any vehicle, upon meeting or overtaking, from either direction, any schoolbus equipped with signs as required in this code, that is stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading any schoolchildren and displays a flashing red light signal and stop signal arm, as defined in paragraph (4) of subdivision (b) of Section 25257, if equipped with a stop signal arm, visible from front or rear, shall bring the vehicle to a stop immediately before passing the schoolbus and shall not proceed past the schoolbus until the flashing red light signal and stop signal arm, if equipped with a stop signal arm, cease operation.
(b) (1) The driver of a vehicle upon a divided highway or multiple-lane highway need not stop upon meeting or passing a schoolbus that is upon the other roadway.
(2) For the purposes of this subdivision, a multiple-lane highway is any highway that has two or more lanes of travel in each direction.
In plain language, this means that if you are driving behind a school bus and its flashing red lights, has an extended stop sign, or both, you must stop for the bus and remain stopped until it’s no longer flashing red lights. This applies to every lane traveling in the same direction as the bus, regardless of how many lanes there are.
If you are approaching a bus traveling in the opposite direction with red lights flashing or stop sign extended, you will need to stop if the road has fewer than 2 lanes in each direction and the road is not separated by a median.