Go to Top

The Rules of the Road: How to Drive Safely around a School Bus

be extra careful driving

When it comes to driving, safety first is a good rule of thumb. When you add school buses to the mix, safety becomes all the more critical. Driving around school buses requires your undivided attention. Charter buses are big and noticeable already, and school buses feature plenty of lights and signs to make it easier to see them. However, it takes effort on your part to drive safely. Follow these rules of the road to help keep you on your toes and watch yourself around a school bus.

1. Be patient

It’s essential to be patient when driving around a school bus. Buses are big and heavy vehicles, and can’t move or stop as quickly as smaller vehicles. Take your time when driving to make the roads safer for you and the bus. Impatience can lead to bad decisions; remember the buses are transporting children. Their safety is the most critical concern when near a school bus. Keep that in mind to help you stay patient, even when the coach has to stop to load or unload passengers.

appropriate signs

2. Stop means stop

When you see a school bus with the stop signs out and the lights blaring, stop immediately. Kids will be entering or exiting the bus right now. Stop the car to minimize risks and give them more space to get in or out. From their position, it can be hard for drivers and passengers to see you. Err on the side of caution and give the bus right of way. Keeping your distance also gives the kids a safety net if they have to cross the street.

3. Maintain your distance

One key to safe driving is maintaining a safe distance, especially if you’re driving near a school bus. Stay at least two seconds behind to allow for safe stops. Measure the distance by using a landmark the bus is passing (e.g. a tree or sign). Make sure you pass that landmark in two seconds or more. The farther back you stay, the easier it is for the driver to keep your car in the rear-view mirrors. A reasonable distance also makes it easier for kids to cross without passing in-between your vehicle and the bus. When keeping your distance, avoid getting too far. Too large a gap can encourage other drivers to try and squeeze in. Maintain a reasonable distance to keep other drivers from clogging the space between you and the bus.

adjust mirrors

4. Adjust your mirrors

Your mirrors help you stay aware of what’s happening around the car. Pay close attention to them when around a school bus and check them more often than usual. Bus drivers are trained to drive defensively to minimize the risk of accidents. Do the same to help make your surroundings safer. Keep in mind that kids might run for it without looking both ways. Watch your blind spots just in case kids pass by. Consider lowering your mirror as well to spot small kids you might not see from where you’re sitting.

be careful of kids

5. Watch out for kids

Kids may come off a bus at any time. Look twice when moving around a school bus, especially moving behind one. Thanks to their smaller size, kids can be harder to spot than adults. When you’re near a bus stop, some kids may be walking to the stop or playing while they wait. Be extra careful, especially if you’re driving close to the bus. The driver or the kids may not be able to see you as well as you can see them. Drive slowly and be ready to hit the brakes at any time.

6. Stay out of blind spots

Buses come with large mirrors to help drivers see their surroundings. However, they may not always be able to see perfectly around them. Keep yourself in the driver’s view to avoid surprising them by coming out of their blind spots. Stay in sight of the bus’s rear-view mirrors. If you can’t see the mirror, it’s likely the driver can’t see you either. Take extra care when overtaking a bus that you remain outside its blind spots as much as is possible.

7. Always pass on the left

When it comes to overtaking a bus, always pass on the left side. The right is where the bus loads and unloads all passengers. It’s safer to pass by the left to avoid the entrance and help the driver see you. When passing, use your blinkers to give the driver a chance to see you.

8. Watch for the driver’s intentions

The size of a bus sometimes makes the driver’s job more complicated. If the driver thinks you can’t see their indicator lights, they’ll give you a signal to make sure you know what they plan to do. Familiarize yourself with hand signals bus drivers may use to warn drivers behind them of what they plan to do.

Even if you expect the driver to stop, watch for any signs and do a full 360-degree check to make sure it’s safe. If the bus is stopped, checking for signals also makes sure you don’t disrupt traffic flow on either side of the road.
slow down

9. Always anticipate stopping

As soon as you enter a school zone, slow down and be ready to stop at any time. When school is on, expect to see kids passing through and crossing wherever convenient. A school bus will warn you when it’s stopping by turning on the brake lights.

However, buses stop frequently outside school zones. Watch the lights to ensure you can start braking as soon as the lights start flashing. When the yellow lights turn on, that’s a sign the bus is going to slow down. Slow down yourself to match its speed. School buses usually stop at marked stop signs, yield signs, and railroad crossings. Keep these places in mind to help you stop when a school bus does.

consider taking alternative routes

10. Alter your route

Consider taking a different route to your destination. Changing your itinerary or schedule to avoid the bus is an effective way of avoiding danger. After all, you can’t cause an accident if you aren’t there in the first place. Think about how you can alter your usual route to put some more distance between yourself and school buses, so you don’t find yourself behind one.

Driving safely around a school bus takes a bit more effort from you, but it’s certainly doable. School bus services train their drivers to drive safely, but other drivers still have to do their part to keep the roads safe. Safety is everyone’s responsibility, and it pays to be careful. Use these guidelines to make driving easier for you and safer for the kids.

When you’re looking for safe, reliable, and comfortable charter bus services, take a look at Parkinson Coach Lines. We provide bus rentals for a variety of needs in the Greater Toronto Area, including bus tours and school bus services. You can count on us to keep our passengers’ comfort and satisfaction in mind. Give us a call at (905) 451-4776 or visit our contact page to rent a bus and get to your destination in style.