Mississippi schools are back in session: Fines, penalties for not respecting stopped buses can be severe

Published 6:54 pm Tuesday, August 1, 2023

As Mississippi students return to school, officials are underscoring the importance of school bus safety, warning that violations can lead to hefty fines, jail time and license suspension for repeat offenders. Moreover, the penalties increase if a violation results in injury to a child boarding or exiting a school bus. Besides the penalties, respecting the flashing lights and the stop sign is the right thing to do when it comes to protecting children.

Drivers failing to stop a minimum of 10 feet from a halted school bus displaying flashing red lights or an extended stop sign could face initial fines between $350 and $750, along with a potential year in jail.

Penalties intensify for repeat offenses within five years, with fines climbing to $1,500, a possible year of jail time, and a 90-day license suspension. It should be noted that these regulations only apply if the school bus displays a “school bus” sign on its front and back.

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In situations where a violation is witnessed by a law enforcement officer or school bus driver, but the vehicle driver’s identity is uncertain, the registered owner of the vehicle is presumed to be the offender. For rented or leased vehicles, this presumption can be contested by the rental or leasing company providing a copy of the rental or lease agreement.

These rules, however, don’t apply to every roadway. Drivers on highways with four or more lanes, or on different roadways where the school bus is in a loading zone adjacent to the highway, aren’t required to stop.

Officials are also urging parents to talk to their children about school bus safety, teaching them to wait for the bus to stop completely before crossing the street, to not cross the street behind the bus, to stay seated until the bus leaves the bus stop and to follow the driver’s instructions.

Drivers, too, are advised to remain vigilant around school buses, to be prepared to stop when a bus’s lights flash and its stop arm extends, to maintain a safe distance when driving behind a bus and to exercise patience near school buses.

Adherence to these safety measures can significantly contribute to ensuring our children’s safety during their school commute. More information about school bus safety can be found on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration website at www.nhtsa.gov/school-bus-safety.