Do You Know When to Stop for a School Bus?

Sooner than you realize, you will be driving through school zones and seeing school buses transporting students to and from school. Many drivers are confused about when the 20-miles-per-hour speed limit can be enforced and when it is or is not permissible to pass a school bus.

Let's start with the 20-miles-per-hour speed limit. To be honest, this law is somewhat vague. The law is enforceable when children are present. That seems to sum it up! Children are present when they are going to and from school and when they are outdoors at recess.

There are no set hours for enforcement, so stay alert to your surroundings. Also, keep in mind that flashing school zone lights are not required to indicate school zones.

It is the law that, when stopped behind a school bus, you must be at least 10 feet from the back of the bus. I instruct my students to stay a little further back than 10 feet, so they can better see the bus and the activity around it. Never pass a stopped school bus that you are behind when it is picking up or dropping off passengers.Always wait until the school bus has started forward before you continue moving.

In some cases, when you are stopped behind a school bus that is picking up or dropping off students, it may seem as though you've been waiting an eternity! Please be patient: Some buses carry handicapped children requiring wheel chairs or special assistance.

Let’s say you're driving eastbound on a four-lane road. A school bus is picking up students in the westbound curb lane. Is it permissible for a driver in the eastbound lanes to continue moving, or does he have to stop? The traffic in the eastbound lanes does not have to stop!

Have you ever been on a four-lane road where a school bus is stopped in the curb lane of traffic going in the opposite direction  - and some drivers in your two lanes are stopping? That's when you might hear some horns being used!

Peddle to the Metal

At the driving school, we instruct students on the use of the passing gear. Passing gear is activated when the gas peddle is pressed hard to the floor in a car that has an automatic transmission. This causes the car to gain speed very rapidly. Passing gear can be used to pass slower traffic and sometimes to enter a highway.

Suppose you're trying to enter a highway and there isn't an opening in the entrance lane. Now your speed is 40 miles per hour. Then you see an opening and need to get from 40 miles per hour to 60 miles per hour - quickly. This is when you could use the passing gear.

We instruct students on the use of passing gear while on a highway drive. The student is traveling about 60 miles per hour when he activates the passing gear to pass a slower moving car. After first reviewing the procedure, I ask the student if he is ready to try it. Given a yes, when I say activate passing gear, the student presses the gas peddle to the floor to gain speed. We practice this a few times so that the student can feel the increase in speed.

One day, while a student and I were on the highway traveling at about 60 miles per hour, I instructed the student to activate passing gear. The student pressed the peddle to the floor. The brake peddle!  My heart still pumps fast when I remember and tell this story.

Until next time, keep both hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road!

Dale Drottar

Dale Drottar is retired from the Avon Lake Police Department. He is currently an instructor at a driving school located in Rocky River.

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Volume 2, Issue 2, Posted 8:32 PM, 08.06.2014