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Illinois School Bus Safety Laws

Posted on December 14, 2022

Most people thoroughly understand the importance of traffic laws, including speed limits, the need to stop at stop signs and stop lights, and the need to yield the right of way. However, understanding how to respond to school buses when they stop is critical. The lives of children and the safety of others are at risk if individuals do not know how to operate a vehicle around a school bus. Here, we want to review Illinois school bus safety laws so you know what to do when approaching them.

Your Responsibility Around Buses as an Illinois Driver

Illinois law has various requirements related to stopping for school buses, depending on the type of roadway involved.

If a school bus is traveling on a four-lane roadway and at least two of those lanes are traveling in the opposite direction, the only vehicles that have to stop when the bus stops are the ones traveling in the same direction as the school bus. Students are not allowed to cross four-lane highways if the roadway involves traffic coming in the opposite direction.

If a school bus is traveling on a one-way roadway with traffic all moving in the same direction, every single lane of traffic going in the same direction as the bus must come to a complete stop when the bus stops and activates its emergency flashers and stop sign.

Motorists are allowed to resume forward motion if one of the following occurs:

  1. The bus resumes forward motion
  2. The bus driver signals the motorist to proceed forward
  3. The flashing lights are turned off, and the extended stop sign is no longer extended

The majority of children that are injured or killed as a result of bus stop incidents are not injured on the school bus but rather outside of the bus as a result of the negligence of other motorists who failed to stop when they were required to do so. That is why Illinois legislators and education officials take bus stop safety so seriously.

The laws related to vehicles stopping for a bus can be found in the Illinois Vehicle Code under sections 625 ILCS 5/11-1414, 5/11-1415, 5/12-803, 5/12-805, and 5/12-807.2.

Consequences of Failing to Stop for a Bus

Individuals can face significant penalties for illegally passing a school bus in Illinois. For a first offense of passing a school bus, there is a mandatory minimum fine of $300 as well as a license suspension of three months.

If a person illegally passes a school bus a second or subsequent time within five years after the previous conviction, there will be a mandatory minimum fine of $1,000 as well as a driver’s license suspension of one year. Any motorist cited for illegally passing a school bus will not be eligible for court supervision.

In the event an individual strikes a child while illegally passing a school bus, it is very likely that they will face additional traffic citations as well as criminal charges related to the incident.

These penalties may seem harsh, particularly for those who make honest mistakes. However, they are the only way to ensure that drivers take school bus safety seriously and to generally minimize the chances of vehicle accidents.

School Buses at Railroad Crossings

Illinois law requires that all school buses come to a stop at railroad crossings, regardless of whether or not there are any students or other passengers on board. The bus driver must pull to the right-hand lane and come to a stop within 10 to 15 feet of the first rail of the crossing. The bus driver will display the bus’s hazard warning lights, open the driver door and service door, then look and listen for an approaching train. The driver can then proceed across the tracks without changing gears.

Other vehicles should not try to cross railroad tracks from behind a school bus until the bus has cleared the tracks and there is room for the vehicle behind the bus on the other side of the track.

Accidents Involving School Buses

Information from the National Safety Council shows that school bus crashes doubled nationally from 2020 to 2021. Information also shows that, from 2012 to 2021, around 70% of deaths in school bus accidents were occupants of vehicles as opposed to occupants on the school bus.

Data collected by the Illinois Department of Transportation indicates that there were 706 total school bus crashes during the most recent reporting year across the state, 2021. From 2020 to 2021, school bus crashes in Illinois increased by 50%, and the total number of injuries and these incidents increased by the same amount. Out of the total school bus crashes in 2021 across Illinois, there were two fatal crashes as well as 99 injury-causing crashes. There were 265 crashes in rural areas of the state and 438 school bus crashes in urban areas of the state.

Out of the school bus accidents in this state during that year, the two fatalities were occupants in other vehicles aside from the school bus, and the majority of severe injuries that occurred as a result of school bus crashes also happened to occupants and other vehicles.

Your Responsibilities After a School Bus Accident

If you are ever involved in an accident with a school bus, it is imperative that you stay at the scene and wait for law enforcement officials to arrive. Generally, your responsibilities after a school bus accident include the following:

  • Ensuring you and others obtain medical care for any injuries. This includes going to the doctor for an evaluation even if the signs and symptoms of any injuries are not severe.
  • Contacting law enforcement officials so they can come to the scene and fill out an accident report.
  • Obtaining as much evidence as possible at the scene of the incident, which can include taking photographs of any vehicle damage, license plates of the vehicles involved, debris or skid marks around the scene, injuries, and more
  • Recording the names and contact information of any eyewitnesses or others involved in the incident.
  • Reaching out to your insurance carrier to report the incident. You do not need to go into much detail with the insurance claims adjuster right away, but they do need to know that the accident occurred.
  • Contacting a school bus accident attorney in Illinois who can use their resources to fully investigate your claim and help you recover compensation.