Montana Video Shows When, How Motorists Should Stop for Buses

A new video from the Montana Department of Justice instructs motorists on how to behave when they come upon stopped school buses under five common circumstances.

“Driving Safety 101: School Buses” Sgt. Jay Nelson of the Montana Highway Patrol narrates the video and takes viewers through five different scenarios involving school buses and student pedestrians. The video was produced in association with First Student and Donell Rosenthal, state director of student transportation with the Montana Office of Public Instruction.

The laws outlined by Sgt. Nelson comply with federal regulations and therefore, across the state of Montana. Each infraction is punishable by a $500 fine.

At typical residential bus stops, motorists traveling in both directions most stop 30 feet prior to the school bus while students load or unload. But Sgt. Nelson points out a four-way intersection governed by stop signs can be especially confusing to other motorists. In that case, all other traffic must come to a complete stop and remain stopped as the students could cross the road to or from the bus in any direction. Traffic can only proceed once the school bus deactivates its flashing lights and stop arm.

When encountering a stopped school bus on a divided highway with raised median, such as a concrete island or vegetation, only traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must come to a complete stop. Motorists traveling in the other direction don’t have to stop.

Conversely, all vehicles in all lanes must stop within 30 feet from the bus in both directions on a non-divided highway or a two-way nondivided roadway.

Federal regulations require all school buses to turn on their warning lights as they approach a railroad crossings and then come to a complete stop. The bus driver must open the loading doors, look both ways down the track and listen for any oncoming train. No other vehicle can pass another vehicle stopped at railroad tracks.

Sgt. Nelson also advises that those who see any of these traffic violations occur to immediately call 911 and include location, make and model of vehicle, license plate and a description of the driver.

“Understand that we as a public owe it to each other to report these violations,” he says. “These are our children coming on and off of these buses. If there’s anything we should follow in the law this is one of the most important.”