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Stopping for school buses

School buses in Ontario come in a range of sizes. All are chrome yellow and display the words “School Bus.”

You must stop whenever you approach a stopped school bus with its upper alternating red lights flash­ing, regardless of whether you are behind the bus or approaching it from the front. When approaching the bus from the front, stop at a safe distance for children to get off the bus and cross the road in front of you. If you are coming from behind the bus, stop at least 20 metres away. Do not go until the bus moves or the lights have stopped flashing.

the required stopping distance on a two-way road for vehicles coming up behind a school bus with lights flashing
Diagram 2-4

If you are on a road with a median strip, only vehicles coming from behind the bus must stop. (A median is a physical barrier such as a raised, lowered, earth or paved strip constructed to separate traffic travelling in different directions. Vehicles cannot cross over a median strip.)

You must obey the school bus law on any road, no matter how many lanes or what the speed limit. Be prepared to stop for a school bus at any time, not just within school hours.

As well as the upper alternating red flashing lights, school buses use a stop-sign arm on the driver’s side of the bus. This arm, a standard stop sign with alternating flashing red lights at top and bottom, swings out after the upper alternating red lights begin to flash. Remain stopped until the arm folds away and all lights stop flashing.

It is illegal to fail to stop for a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing. If you don’t stop, you can be fined $400 to $2,000 and receive six demerit points for a first offence. If you are convicted a second time within five years, the penalty is a fine of $1,000 to $4,000 and six demerit points. You could also go to jail for up to six months. In Ontario, school bus drivers and other wit­nesses can report vehicles that have illegally passed a school bus.

As the vehicle’s registered owner, you may receive the fines if the driver is not charged. If you do not pay the fine, you will not be able to renew your vehicle permit.

Note: Watch for school buses near railway crossings. All school buses must stop at all railway crossings; however, the upper alternating red lights are not used for these stops.

the required stopping distance on a roadway with a median strip for vehicles coming up behind a school bus with lights flashing
Diagram 2-5