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Law News & Opinions

High Crimes & Misdemeanors

Passing the Bus

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Just one thing of many that Georgia drivers need to know about when passing our school buses…

Question (from Avvo.com): I passed a school bus with its yellow (amber) lights flashing. I was driving in the opposite lane on a two-lane road coming towards the bus. Though the yellow lights were on, its stop sign was not out. So i proceeded slowly. After I passed the bus, the stop sign came out. Can I be cited?

My Answer: Without still more details, based only on the facts as related in your question, I believe you can be cited.

OCGA §40-6-163 gives the duties of any driver approaching or overtaking a school bus. The relevant language states that the driver "shall stop before reaching such school bus when there are in operation on the school bus the visual signals as specified in Code Sections 40-8-111 and 40-8-115, and such driver shall not proceed until the school bus resumes motion or the visual signals are no longer actuated."

Looking to OCGA §40-8-115(2) as to what those "visual signals" are (OCGA §40-8-111 isn't really relevant), "[t]he bus shall be equipped with four hooded or recessed red flasher lights, or four red flasher lights and four amber flasher lights mounted on the same horizontal centerline as the red lights and nearer the centerline. Such amber lights shall be at least two and one-half times brighter than the red lights. The system shall be wired so that the amber signal lights are activated only by manual or foot operation and if activated are automatically deactivated and the red signal lights activated when the bus entrance door is opened[.]"

The stop sign you refer to is termed a "stop arm" in the Georgia School Bus Specifications Manual. While it appears the stop arm is a required feature of Georgia school buses, and while the specifications for its manufacture and operation are given in the Bus Specification Manual, the stop arm itself is not of consequence under the law. Rather, it's the flashing lights that are at issue. That is, if the amber or red lights were on and flashing, the "visual signals" to which the statues refer, it is likely you are liable for a ticket if you then passed the bus.

Please note that I may not have all the facts of your scenario, and I certainly may be overlooking a relevant statute. Furthermore, I have not researched any caselaw that may have a bearing on your situation. Other attorneys may agree or disagree with my assessment of your situation. If you do wish to discuss your matter further, feel free to contact me.

Best Regards,

Alan Levine