Stopping for a School Bus – Questions on Your Permit Test

School bus with flashing red lights and extended stop arm

Why School Bus Questions are Important

All states have a law making it illegal to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended. Yet, some drivers choose to ignore the law or simply don’t understand the law.

From 2006 to 2015 there were 1,313 people of all ages killed in school-transportation-related crashes – an average of 131 fatalities per year (NHTSA – Fact Sheet)

You are likely to find chapters in your driver’s manual that describe when you need to stop and what types of highways are covered by the law (all roads or only non-divided highways). Often, you will also see what penalties are for breaking the law. Some States have set high fines, as well as a high number of points, or even the potential for license suspension. This is an indication of how seriously they view this violation.

What Do the Amber Lights Mean?

School Bus with Amber Flashing Lights

Question 1: Yellow or amber flashing lights near the top of a school bus mean:

  •   A. The bus is about to resume motion
  •   B. The bus is loading or unloading children
  •   C. The bus is about to stop

CORRECT ANSWER: C.
Flashing amber lights are used as a warning to drivers that the bus is preparing to stop.

Approaching school bus with flashing lights

Question 2: You approach a school bus from behind. It displays amber flashing lights at the top. You must:

  •   A. Come to an immediate stop
  •   B. Slow down and be prepared to stop
  •   C. Proceed quickly around the bus

CORRECT ANSWER: B.
Amber (or yellow) lights are used as a warning to drivers that the bus is about to stop. They are like yellow lights at an intersection, you must slow down and prepare to stop if you can do so safely.

When Can You Overtake a School Bus?

School bus - two lane road - Xzelenz Media

Question 3: When are you allowed to overtake a school bus?

  •   A. When bus is in motion and no lights are flashing
  •   B. When signaled by another driver to pass
  •   C. When red lights are flashing.

CORRECT ANSWER: A.
You may pass school buses when they are in motion and no lights are flashing.

Question 4: When are you allowed to overtake a STOPPED school bus?

A stopped school bus - xzelenz Media for FreeDMVTest

  •   A. When signaled by another driver to pass
  •   B. When no lights are flashing and stop arm is withdrawn
  •   C. When you don’t see children nearby

CORRECT ANSWER: B.
Remember, a school bus driver signals you to stop by turning on flashing red lights and extend the stop arm. When no lights are flashing and stop arm is withdrawn, you may proceed with care.

When Red Lights are Flashing

Stopped school bus on a divided highway

Question 5: You approach a stopped school bus on your side of a divided highway. The bus is displaying alternating flashing red lights. In this situation, you must:

  •   A. Come to a full stop
  •   B. Slow down and pass with care
  •   C. Stop only if you see children nearby

CORRECT ANSWER: A.
If a school bus on your side of the road has its lights flashing and a stop sign extended, you must stop. This is the law in all 50 states and District of Columbia.

When the traffic light turns green

Question 6: You approach an intersection with a traffic light showing a red signal. A school bus has stopped in front of you and turned on flashing red lights. When the traffic light turns green, you:

  •   A. May only pass the school bus if no children are nearby
  •   B. Must always proceed when a traffic signal turns green
  •   C. Must remain stopped as long as the school bus has the red lights turned on.

CORRECT ANSWER: C.
A school bus may stop near a traffic light. When the light turns green, it is easy to focus on the traffic light and pass the stopped bus despite the red flashing lights and an extended stop arm. Remember that you must always remain stopped while lights are flashing and a stop sign is extended.

Stopped school bus on an undivided highway

Question 7: A school bus with flashing red lights is stopped on THE OTHER SIDE of an undivided roadway with two lanes. You must:

  •   A. Always stop and remain stopped
  •   B. Slow down and pass carefully
  •   C. Stop only if the bus has stopped in a loading zone

CORRECT ANSWER: A.
On undivided highways with two lanes, traffic in both directions must stop when the school bus driver activates flashing red lights and extends the stop arm to indicate the school bus has stopped and students are getting on or off the bus. While wording varies, this is the law in all states.

Highway with center turn lane

Question 8: When a school bus with flashing red lights is stopped on the other side of a two-lane roadway with an additional center turning lane, you must:

  •   A. Slow down and pass with care
  •   B. Always stop
  •   C. Stop only if children are crossing the street

CORRECT ANSWER GENERALLY: B.
In general, you must stop when meeting a school bus from the other direction on all undivided highways. Painted lines or pavement markings indicating a turn lane are not considered to be barriers. You are still on an undivided highway.

The exception is Washington State. In WA, correct answer is A, you don’t need to stop if the roadway has three or more marked traffic lanes (including turn lanes).

Divided Highway with barrier

Question 9: When a school bus with flashing red lights is stopped on the other side of a divided highway with a median strip, you must:

  •   A. Pass with caution
  •   B. Always stop
  •   C. Stop only if children are nearby

CORRECT ANSWER GENERALLY: A
In general, you don’t have to stop if the bus is on the other side of a divided highway. Some exceptions exist:

In New York State, traffic from either direction must stop. This law applies on all roadways in New York State. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway.

In West Virginia, you must stop even if you are on the opposite side of a divided highway – unless it’s a controlled-access highway (interstate highway).

Arkansas make an exception for narrow dividers, less than 20 feet (6 m) in width.

Undivided highway with 4 lanes

Question 10: When a school bus with flashing red lights is stopped on the other side of an undivided highway with 2 lanes in each direction, you must:

  •   A. Pass with caution
  •   B. Always stop
  •   C. Stop only if children are nearby

CORRECT ANSWER GENERALLY: B. Again: In general, you must stop when meeting a school bus from the other direction on all undivided highways. Some states make exceptions for multi-lane highways. Those stats include: Washington state (3 or more lanes), California (2 or more lanes of travel in each direction), Ohio (4 or more lanes), Idaho (4 or more lanes), and Kentucky (4 or more lanes).

test sheet school bus stop law
Download this study sheet and test yourself with more questions: School Bust Stop Law Questions

Rules by state – compiled from driver’s manuals for each state: Stopping for School Buses.

Some illustrations in this article are based on the work of Virginia DMV.

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