Ask a Trooper: Tips for winter driving

Question: I see school busses that do not use their flashing lights or extend the stop arm as they’re picking up kids. Cars are passing them from behind and from the front. What are the requirements for bus drivers to use their safety lights? Thank you for your time.

 Answer: Minnesota law allows for certain exceptions for school buses not to use the flashing lights and stop arm system. These situations require approval from the school board in writing. If the flashing red lights and stop arm are not being used other vehicles are not required to stop. However, I would recommend using caution and common sense.

 Some other examples of when School bus drivers shall not activate the prewarning flashing amber signals or flashing red signals and shall not use the stop arm signal:

(1) in special school bus loading areas where the bus is entirely off the traveled portion of the roadway and where no other motor vehicle traffic is moving or is likely to be moving within 20 feet of the bus;

(2) when directed not to do so, in writing, by the local school board;

(3) when a school bus is being used on a street or highway for purposes other than the actual transportation of school children to or from school or a school-approved activity, except as provided in subdivision 8;

(4) at railroad grade crossings;

(5) when operating the bus under special event school bus use

(6) when loading and unloading people at designated school bus stops where people are not required to cross the street or highway, while the bus is completely off the traveled portion of a roadway that has adequate shoulders. The driver shall drive the bus completely off the traveled portion of this roadway before loading or unloading people. A school bus stop is designated under this clause if the transportation director of the school district in which the bus stop is located, in consultation with the road authority, certifies the integrity of the shoulder and the safety of the location for loading and unloading people. Each designated school bus stop must be documented and approved by the school board.

 A portion of state statutes were used with permission from the Office of the Revisor of Statutes. If you have any questions concerning traffic related laws or issues in Minnesota, send your questions to Trp. Jesse Grabow – Minnesota State Patrol at 1000 Highway 10 West, Detroit Lakes, MN 56501-2205.  (You can follow him on Twitter @MSPPIO_NW or reach him at, jesse.grabow@state.mn.us).

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