As another school year gets underway across Wisconsin, drivers are asked to keep a sharp eye out for students and school buses. The State Patrol’s September Law of the Month details state laws designed to protect students as they head to and from school activities.
“Children aren’t always thinking about their own safety, so drivers need to be alert and cautious at all times,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Superintendent J.D. Lind. “This includes being ready to stop when school buses load and unload passengers, and to watch for children who are walking or biking.”
School bus laws
Wisconsin law requires drivers to stop at least 20 feet from a stopped school bus that has its red warning lights flashing. The law applies when approaching a school bus from either direction. The only exception is if you are traveling on the other side of a divided roadway separated by a median or other physical barrier.
When passed illegally, school bus drivers are authorized to report violations to law enforcement. If a citation is issued, the vehicle owner can be held responsible, even if they weren’t the offending driver. A citation for failure to stop for a school bus costs $326.
Under a year-old state law, Wisconsin school buses built after January 1, 2005 must also be fitted with amber lights. When flashing, the amber lights mean drivers should slow down because the red flashing lights will soon be activated and the bus is about to stop. Drivers can carefully pass a school bus with amber lights activated, but should never speed up to pass.
State law requires drivers to yield to pedestrians:
- Who have started crossing an intersection or crosswalk on a walk signal or on a green light if there is no walk signal;
- Who are crossing the road within a marked or unmarked crosswalk at an intersection where there are no traffic lights or control signals; and
- Whenever directed to stop by a school crossing guard. Like bus drivers, crossing guards have the authority to report violations to law enforcement.
Depending on the specific violation, drivers who fail to yield the right of way to pedestrians that are legally crossing a roadway can receive a citation ranging from $175 to $326.
When passing a bicyclist traveling in the same direction, motor vehicle operators must leave at least 3-feet of clearance and maintain this safety zone until safely past the bicycle. Violating state law that requires drivers to overtake and pass bicyclists safely can result in a $200 citation.
“Our goal is not simply to write citations, but to help motorists and other travelers understand and abide by the laws that are designed to protect us all,” Superintendent J.D. Lind said.