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Stopping for school buses isn't just polite, it's the law. And as many impatient drivers have learned the hard way, not giving school buses a wide berth can lead to some serious legal consequences.
In Minnesota, a truck driver was charged with two misdemeanors last week for failing to stop for a school bus, allegedly almost striking a sixth grader who was about to board, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. These incidents are more common than they should be, and drivers should be aware of the risks they run by not giving school buses the right of way.
So what legal consequences can befall a driver who doesn't stop for a school bus?
Jail, Fines, Public Shaming Are Possible
Although you may already know that you can be charged with reckless driving for blowing past a stopped school bus, you may not be aware of the punishments. Depending on your state's laws, you may be facing a handful of days in jail and hefty fines. Or you may have to tell the world that you're an idiot.
That's what happened to one Ohio woman who drove onto a sidewalk to get around a stopped school bus. The judge sentenced the woman to wear a sign declaring, "Only an idiot drives on the sidewalk to avoid a school bus." This sort of "shame sentence" seems to be building steam in Ohio, where judges have ordered other offenders to wear signs proclaiming them to be "intolerant" or even apologize for a "jackass offense."
The judges in your jurisdiction may not choose to shame you with a sentence for failing to stop for a bus, but why risk it?
Potential Loss of Driving Privileges
In some states, not stopping for a school bus may result in the immediate suspension of your driver's license. For example, Pennsylvania motorists can have their licenses suspended for 60 days for disregarding the school bus stopping law. You may be able to apply for a hardship or provisional license to travel to work or for other necessities, but you'll likely be off the road for a bit.
And just a reminder: Attempting to drive during your license suspension period can land you with a citation for driving without a license, and willful violations can lead to jail time.
Drivers should be aware of these potential penalties and know that some jurisdictions are stepping up enforcement. As Chicago's WLS-TV notes, some school buses are being equipped with surveillance cameras that record the GPS location and plate image of bus-stop offenders. That's yet another reason you should always stop when a school bus flashes its red lights.