Schools open soon; Don’t pass that school bus!

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MORRIS COUNTY — Late for work? Going to miss that important meeting? Whatever you do, don’t pass that school bus!

The time that it takes you to wait behind it for all of the children to get on or off is far less than the amount of frustration a ticket for improperly passing a school bus will cause you.

Ultimately, if convicted you can be facing a lot more than you bargained for.

School buses are equipped with yellow, amber or red flashing lights. Yellow or amber lights before the bus stops, and red lights go on when it has stopped. Do not depend on these lights if traveling behind a school bus. These lights could be malfunctioning.

With Back-to-School a week away, motorists need to understand how flashing lights on a yellow school bus is supposed to work.

It’s real simple: You have to stop. And stay stopped.

The only exceptions are when a physical barrier divides a highway or when a bus is parked next to a school — and even then, you’re supposed to slow to a crawl.

As the bus approaches its stop, it flashes its yellow lights and pulls out its stop sign from the driver’s side. The traffic in the two lanes behind the bus stop and wait.

New Jersey State law requires vehicles stop at least 25 feet from the bus, even if you’re on the opposite side of the road or there’s a passing lane. Vehicles have to remain stopped until all students have enter onto the bus or exited off the bus and move to a safe location.

On a divided roadway, vehicles on the opposite side don’t have to stop but they have to slow down to 10 mph.

If the bus is parked on the same side of the street as a school, cars on either side of the road can pass at 10 mph.

In New Jersey the fines and penalties for violating this law are stiff. You will be charged with NJSA 39:4-128.1.

If you get convicted of improperly passing a school bus, five points will go on your driving record. Not only that, but you also will face a minimum fine of $100. Moreover, you can be compelled to serve up to 15 days in jail or do 15 days of community service.

Lastly, an insurance carrier will look at this as if you put children at risk. Thus, they will likely label you as a careless driver and your auto insurance rate will go through the roof.