Law enforcement warns drivers to slow down and be aware of surroundings.

It’s almost that time of year when kids will be heading back to school, and Prosecutor Tara Coats Hunt is urging drivers to take precautions as school buses return to the roads.

In Indiana, it’s against the law for motorists to pass a bus that’s stopped and has its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended. This applies to all roads with one exception: motorists who are on a highway that is divided by a barrier – such as a cable barrier, concrete wall or grassy median. Motorists are then required to stop only if they are traveling in the same direction as the school bus.

Unfortunately, school bus stop-arm violations are all too common in Indiana and can lead to fatal results. Prosecutor Hunt reminds the community to slow down around school buses and in school zones and to always make a full stop when the school bus stop-arm is extended and the red lights are flashing.

“There really is no excuse for ignoring school bus stop-arms,” said Prosecutor Hunt. “For kids and our community to be safe, we must all take this seriously. Pay attention and slow down.”

In April 2022, a national survey found that almost a third of buses recorded stop-arm violations. During the one-day survey, 6,665 bus drivers from 195 school districts took part in an observational survey where the drivers counted stop-arm violations throughout the day in Indiana. In total, drivers recorded an unbelievable 2,041 violations, according to the National School Bus Illegal Passing Driver Survey.

Ignoring school bus stop-arms is not only against the law, but it can be deadly. Several school age children lost their lives during the 2021-22 school year due to negligent and reckless drivers. 

Disregarding a school bus stop-arm is a Class A Infraction, which could result in a fine of up to $10,000 and a license suspension for up to 90 days on the first offense or up to a year on the second. Recklessly passing a stop-arm is a crime, which could result in jail time. Further punishment could come if injuries or death occur as a result of the reckless passing. If someone is killed, the charge could be reckless homicide – a felony punishable by years in prison.

“Law enforcement uses various safety methods to keep our community safe when school starts back up, but we as Hoosiers need to be diligent for our kids, too,” said Prosecutor Hunt.