Four children were hit by a vehicle while boarding a school bus in Rochester, Indiana. Three of them died. According to IndyStar, the driver who struck the children has been charged with a misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when the stop signal arm was extended and three felony counts of reckless homicide.

CBS News reports that this crash was only one in a recent string of deadly school bus stop accidents. Others occurred in Mississippi, Pennsylvania and Florida. In total, five students were skilled and six were hospitalized.

When children get on and off their school bus, they are in a vulnerable situation. This is why school buses come equipped with red lights and stop signs. Unfortunately, some drivers either aren’t paying attention or are in too much of a hurry to stop. As the crash in Rochester shows, this can lead to tragic consequences.

Know the Law

Some drivers may be confused about when they are required to stop. However, ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Under California law, all vehicles must stop for a school bus with red flashing lights, regardless of the direction they’re driving. Vehicles must remain stop until the red lights stop flashing. An exception is made for vehicles on the other side of a divided or multilane highway with two or more lanes in each direction; in this situation, vehicles are not required to stop.

If you get caught passing a school bus illegally, expect a fine of up to $1,000. You could also have your driver’s license suspended for up to a year.

Prepare for More Penalties

The recent crashes have sparked outrage. A petition is asking the United States government to increase the penalties associated with a passing a school bus with its red lights flashing. The suggested penalties include 30 days in jail and a $5,000 fine for a first offense.

Some local governments have installed cameras on school buses to make sure drivers who pass illegally are caught. According to KIRO 7, these cameras resulted in at least 8,310 tickets in the Seattle School District in 2017. School Bus Fleet reports that close to 51,000 tickets were issued thanks to school bus cameras in Montgomery County in Maryland over a two-year period. According to CBS News, at least 15 states have laws that allow for cameras on school buses. As awareness of this problem grows, use of cameras may become more common.

In California, police are out looking for drivers who pass school buses illegally. According to KCRA, a report that came out in May looked at 4,000 buses in the state and found that 14,000 drivers did not stop. Police will be cracking down on this as part of the Stop on Red Campaign.

Safety Tips

You can avoid getting an expensive ticket and help keep children safe by practicing good habits.

  • Always stop for school buses with flashing red lights, even if you don’t see any children. Remember that children expect cars to stop for school buses, so they may run across the street suddenly.
  • Put down your phone. Driving while using a handheld device is illegal in California. Even worse, if you’re distracted by your phone, you might not notice a school bus or child until it’s too late.
  • Don’t speed. The faster you’re going, the less time you’ll have to stop. Obey reduced speed limits in school zones.
  • Protect yourself and others with sufficient auto insurance. If you ever accidentally injure another person while driving, a good auto insurance policy can help pay for the medical bills. Need coverage? Get a quote here.