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07 May2013

NY Passing A Stopped School Bus Law Sec. 1174(a)

In the state of New York, a school bus is a vehicle owned, leased or contracted by a public school district, nonpublic school district or board of cooperative educational services for the purpose of transporting students.

In New York, drivers must stop for a school bus if its red lights are flashing, even if the bus is on the other side of a divided highway. This is unique to the state, as most others do not require that vehicles stop for buses on highways unless they are traveling in the same direction.

When vehicles do stop for a school bus, they should be at least 20 feet away. Stopping closer to the rear of a school bus could result in a ticket. It is not legal to pass a school bus while the red lights are flashing. School buses do not have to be accepting or dropping off students to turn on the red flashing lights.

A bus driver is permitted to wave drivers past even if the red lights are flashing. If you are waved on by a bus driver, you are permitted to legally pass the vehicle. If you are waved on by a bus driver, it is recommended that you be very sure that that is what is occurring before you attempt to pass. If you misread the driver’s waving or other signal and choose to pass, you could be given a ticket.

Any person charged with violating one of these laws may be subject to a fine in an amount between $250 and $400. Drivers convicted will receive an automatic five points on their license. Subsequent offenses could result in stiffer penalties per offense.

NYS VTL Section 1174(a) reads as follows:

§ 1174. Overtaking and passing school bus. (a) The driver of a vehicle
upon a public highway, street or private road upon meeting or overtaking
from either direction any school bus marked and equipped as provided in
subdivision twenty of section three hundred seventy-five of this chapter
which has stopped on the public highway, street or private road for the
purpose of receiving or discharging any passengers, or which has stopped
because a school bus in front of it has stopped to receive or discharge
any passengers, shall stop the vehicle before reaching such school bus
when there is in operation on said school bus a red visual signal as
specified in subdivision twenty of section three hundred seventy-five of
this chapter and said driver shall not proceed until such school bus
resumes motion, or until signaled by the driver or a police officer to
proceed. For the purposes of this section, and in addition to the
provisions of section one hundred thirty-four of this chapter, the term
“public highway” shall mean any area used for the parking of motor
vehicles or used as a driveway located on the grounds of a school or of
a board of cooperative educational services facility or any area used as
a means of access to and egress from such school or facility.

A conviction for this violation puts five (5) points on your NY license or record.

If you’ve been issued a ticket for failure to stop for a school bus answerable to a local court, you’ll most likely pursue a plea bargain and a negotiated reduction of the charge before you schedule a trial on the merits.  If you do end up taking the case to trial, or you’ve been issued the ticket at the TVB (in NYC) where there is no negotiation and all cases go to trial, here are the most basic take aways from the statute:

  • This ticket can be written anytime, anywhere.  School grounds or off school grounds (various field trips), private or public roadway, before, during or after school hours.  It is always in effect.
  • Approaches from front and rear, left and right are all covered.   There’s also no provision that you be adjacent to the school bus.  A technical reading of the law would require a vehicle in the most western southbound lane of Broadway in NYC to stop for a school bus 6 lanes and one median away in the most eastern northbound lane.
  • You are required to stop when passengers are getting on or off a school bus AND the school bus flashing red lights are illuminated.
  • The bus in question must be a school bus as defined by the Vehicle and Traffic Law § 375(20).
  • You may not pass just because the lights are off or passengers seem to be finished getting on or off.  You must wait until waived on by the driver or the bus starts in motion again.

Of course this is an important law.  Children’s safety is always a priority.  Unfortunately, the nature of this violation can sometimes lead to overly aggressive enforcement.  We’ve worked with many people who have argued that they were issued a ticket for this violation despite passengers not getting on or off the bus or just before the red lights were ever illuminated or were otherwise adamant that they did not commit a violation.  We’ve had clients tell us the issuing officer implied that he or she was indeed aggressively enforcing because of prior complaints from the school or parents.   Also unfortunate is the fact that this over agressive enforcement can sometimes carry over to a plea negotiation or hearing where a Prosecutor or Judge is slightly more weary of negotiating with or ruling in favor of someone charged with this particular violation.

Submitted by Scott Feifer