The school year starts on Sept. 3 in Montgomery County, so it’s time for drivers to review the laws pertaining to school buses as students return to school. School bus safety is a real issue that must never be taken lightly. AAA Mid-Atlantic says that last year, 133 pedestrians were killed in Maryland and 214 school-aged children were injured while walking during school arrival and dismissal times. This is not limited to Maryland. During a six-month period from August 2018 to March 2019, 12 children were killed and another 47 were injured while getting on and off school buses nationwide.

Bus stop-arms were extended at the time, which means that in Maryland and the 49 other states, drivers were required to come to a full stop. There are some differences in the state law. Maryland’s law requires: If a school vehicle has stopped on a road and is operating the alternately flashing red lights, the driver of any vehicle following or approaching the school bust must stop at least 20 feet from the front or rear of the school vehicle, depending on the direction of travel. Drivers following or approaching the school bus may not proceed until the school vehicle moves or the flashing red lights are deactivated. This does not apply to the driver of a vehicle on a physically divided highway.

New this year is a state law that imposes an increased maximum penalty of $500 for drivers caught on school bus stop-arm cameras failing to stop for buses with red lights flashing that are loading or unloading children. According to a one-day survey of bus drivers conducted by the Maryland State Department of Education in April 2018, there were 3,812 incidents involving vehicles passing a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights illuminated. In Maryland, at least four counties, including Montgomery County, use automated stop-arm cameras.

Maryland law requires drivers to stop for school buses when the buses engage flashing red lights. Drivers may not be able to see every child who gets off of a bus so proceed slowly until you are clear of the bus and pedestrians.