A Reminder – Passing a School Bus With Red Flashing Lights Is Illegal

Putnam County Sheriff Robert L. Langley, and the entire Putnam County Traffic Safety Committee reports that the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, Town of Carmel Police Department and the Town of Kent Police Department have received numerous complaints regarding motorists passing stopped school buses. Under New York State law, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to discharge or receive students. School buses activate yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to discharge or receive students. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists that a school bus is stopped and children are either boarding or exiting the bus. When red flashing lights are activated, traffic is required to stop in both directions on undivided highways, regardless of the number of lanes, to allow students to board or exit the school bus.

As school children, countywide, get ready to return to school from their holiday break, motorists are reminded that New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1174(A) requires drivers to stop, from either direction, even on a divided highway, any time red lights on a bus are flashing. Flashing lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students. Most school bus related deaths and injuries occur while children cross the street after being discharged from the bus, rather than in collisions that involve school buses. Passing a school bus with red lights is not only dangerous, but it is illegal and punishable with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000. Five points may be assessed to one’s driver’s license, and penalties can also include possible imprisonment (up to 30 days for the first offense and180 days for a third or subsequent conviction).

The area 10 feet around a school bus is where children are in the most danger of being struck by a passing vehicle. Drivers should stop their cars far enough from a school bus to give students the space necessary to safely enter and exit the bus.

The Traffic Safety Board will be working with various agencies and stakeholders to insure that this law is enforced. We are asking community members to help gather information about those vehicles violating this law by getting license plate numbers, the location of the violation and a description of the car and motorists whenever possible. We need to work together to insure the safety of our children.