Laws governing school buses originate primarily from the individual state governments and vary from state to state. Federal Safety Standards and various regulations, recommendations and guidelines from other agencies contribute to the development of policy concerning school bus operation. Additionally there are laws governing the other vehicles operating near and around a school bus.

School Bus Driver Qualifications

Drivers receive extensive training before starting on the job.
Drivers receive extensive training before starting on the job.

States require that school bus drivers be certified, holding a CDL (Commercial Driver's License) and that they strictly adhere to all traffic laws. Their driving record both personally and professionally must be without blemish. Additionally, many school districts include in-depth emergency training before the driver is allowed to start on the job.

Seating Capacity and Safety

Passengers must all sit while the school bus is in motion.
Passengers must all sit while the school bus is in motion.

The number of children and/or adults who can sit on an individual seat on a school bus is determined by school bus manufacturers, not by law. Standard seats are 39 inches and have been determined to be able to seat three small school age children or two people of adult size. It is further recommended by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that no passenger be allowed to stand while the bus is moving. Everyone must have a seat.

Railroad Tracks

School buses should stop at all railroad crossings.
School buses should stop at all railroad crossings.

Railroad tracks pose a real hazard for all vehicles, especially larger ones such as school buses. The National Safety Council recommends that all school buses stop at railroad tracks and the driver evaluate the situation before proceeding over the tracks. The recommendation further states that the drivers must be well-versed in, and adhere to, their individual state’s regulations concerning railroad track safety precautions.

Loading and Unloading

Drivers must stop when the stop sign is extended.
Drivers must stop when the stop sign is extended.

Laws for motorists concerning the safe loading and unloading of a school bus are clear. Simply put, motorists must stop when a school bus stops. When driving behind a school bus, or coming the opposite way on a two or four lane road, drivers must stop their vehicle when the bus is stopped and its red STOP sign is extended or the hazard lights are blinking.