School Bus Questions on Your DMV Test

school bus - photo by xzelenz media

Expect Questions about School Buses on Your DMV Test

You should learn how to share the roads with school buses and the laws about passing school buses in your State. Not only because questions about school buses are quite common on the DMV knowledge test, but because you want to avoid potentially tragic accidents and unnecessary penalties.

1  Look for Children and Avoid Distractions

Our lives are filled with distractions, but we simply must put them aside and focus on the road ahead when we get behind the wheel,” says PennDOT Secretary Leslie S. Richards. “Even a momentary distraction – especially around school buses and in school zones – can lead to tragedy.

You need to be alert and always look for children when you drive through a school zone, not only during school hours. Children may be near schools even after school hours.

Avoid distractions, like cell phones, when you are near schools and playgrounds. Several states have laws or local ordinances against using cell phones in school zones. Make sure you obey them.

Your call can wait.

2  Amber or Yellow Flashing Lights

Do you know what the yellow flashing lights mean? How should you react when the yellow lights on top a school bus starts flashing? If you have already started to pass a school bus, should you proceed?

When a school bus is displaying yellow flashing lights, it tells you that:

A. You must come to an immediate stop
B. The bus is about to stop
C. You should try to pass as soon as possible

When the driver activates yellow lights near the top of a school bus it means that the school bus is slowing down and preparing to stop.

In general, you are not prohibited to pass and overtake the school bus in this situation, but you must proceed with care. Watch for children and/or parents near the roadway ahead.

Remember, children are often unpredictable and your view to the sides are limited while passing the bus.

Your best course of action is to slow down and be prepared to stop, if you can do so safely.

3   Red Flashing Lights Means Stop

When the red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, you are required to stop in from all directions.

Some States require that you keep a distance of at least 10 feet or 20 feet from the bus (front or back).

You are, however, rarely asked about these specific distances on your DMV knowledge test – just remember that you should always keep a good distance to the bus so you can see ahead and to the sides, and so that the bus driver can see you.

4  When You Don’t Need to Stop

Remember, the general rule is that you must stop when approaching a stopped school bus from ANY direction.

All States have one exception to this rule. The most common state law says that you may proceed without stopping when the school bus is on a different roadway, or when the school bus is stopped upon a controlled-access highway in a loading zone and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the highway.

A different roadway is usually defined as a highway clearly separated by a divider, such as a concrete barrier or grass median. In a few States, you may proceed without stopping when approaching from the other direction on a multi-lane highway.

Make sure you look up this rule and the exception in you State’s driver handbook or manual, it is one of the most important rules to learn for your DMV test and future driving. You must know when the law requires you to stop and when you may proceed without stopping.

Even when you meet a school bus and aren’t required to stop, you must use caution and watch for children trying to cross the road. It is a good idea to adjust your speed and keep a good distance to vehicles ahead of you.

5  Penalties

Penalties for failing to stop for a school bus are harsh. If you are convicted, you usually face a heavy fine, many points on your driving record, a possible license suspension, and higher insurance premiums.

In Mississippi and Missouri offenders may even face a one-year prison sentence for a first conviction. A prison sentence for a first conviction can be up to six months in Louisiana and West Virginia.

The license suspension period can be up to one year in some states.

Fines are also high in many states.


State Highest fine
Indiana Up to $10,000
Alaska Up to $2,000
Missouri Up to $2,000
Oregon Up to $2,000
Texas $500 to $1,250
Arkansas $250 to $1,000
Maryland Up to $1,000
Tennessee $250 to $1,000
Vermont Up to $1,000
West Virginia $500 to $1,000

Details about these penalties may be listed in your manual and, if they are, they may show up on your written knowledge test.

The point to remember, however, is that an unlawful passing of a school bus is a severe violation in United States. Passing a stopped school bus can result in a criminal charge (Class 1 Misdemeanor, a Class I felony, or a Class H felony, depending on the facts and circumstances of the incident).

6   Speed Limits in School Zones

Your DMV test can also have questions about speed limits in school zones (usually between 15 mph and 25 mph) and when they are in effect.

Speed limit signs in a school zone

Speed limit signs in a school zone often have a supplemental plaque that tells you when the speed limit is in effect.

    X:XX to X:XX AM / X:XX to X:XX PM tells you between which hours the speed limit applies. There may be an additional plaque that says MON – FRI or SCHOOLDAYS.
    When Flashing means that there is a flashing beacon with a yellow warning light that is active when the speed limit is in effect.
    When Children Are Present tells you that you must obey the speed limit whenever children are present.

When you see school crossing guards or school safety patrols near schools you can also be sure that the speed limit applies. Always respect and obey instructions from school crossing guards. They have the same authority to direct traffic as police offers.

Even if your state does not have state-wide speed limits set for school zones, you will most likely see signs that establish lower speed limits on a case-by-case basis near schools. Slow down when you approach them and always drive with caution.

Check What You Have Learned



Well done!

Study your state’s driver handbook. Questions about school zones and school buses are important.

#1. When are you allowed to pass a school bus?

Be caruful when you approach a stopped school bus. If the bus flashes its red lights, traffic approaching from either direction, must stop usually stop before reaching the bus. When a school bus resumes motion, you may pass the bus, if safe.

#2. Drivers should know that a shool bus is preparing to stop when:

When the driver activates amber or yellow lights near the top of a school bus it means that the school bus is slowing down and preparing to stop to load or unload children. A driver should use caution and be ready to stop.

#3. Near schools, you should watch for:

#4. When approaching a stopped school bus with an extended stop arm traveling in the opposite direction on an undivided roadway with two lanes, you must:

On an undivided street or highway with two lanes, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus which is picking up or dropping off children. You must remain stopped until all children are clear of the roadway and the stop arm is withdrawn.

#5. A school bus ahead of you in your lane is stopped with red lights flashing. You should:

When the bus flashes red lights (located at the top front and back of the bus), you must stop until the children are safely off the street and the lights stop flashing. The law requires that you remain stopped as long as the red lights are flashing.

See result

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Photo credit: Xzelenz Media.

Learn more about penalties: State Fines and Other Penalties for Passing a Stopped School Bus

School Bus DMV Question – Florida

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