This week students return to the classrooms all across Northwest Arkansas and the Little Rock area. With all the talk about preventing COVID-19 exposure, we want to ensure no one forgets other safety precautions that can be a matter of life or death for our children.

State law has changed to clarify that when the STOP sign arm is extended, or the red lights are flashing on a school bus, drivers must not only stop, but they must give at least 30 feet (about three car lengths) of clearance so that children can pass safely. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus whenever its red lights are flashing, as students are present. The law requires drivers to stop on two-lane and four-lane highways in both directions, even those with a middle lane. Drivers cannot attempt to pass in any direction until the school bus vehicle has finished receiving or discharging its passengers and is in motion again.

School safety image that shows road scenarios where vehicles must stop for a school bus.

This image from 2019 is still used by the Arkansas State Police to demonstrate which roadway scenarios require ALL traffic to stop for a school bus with its STOP sign arm extended. A new law says that vehicles must give at least 30 feet of clearance.

More school safety reminders

Here are a few safety tips and facts to remember as the school year starts:

  • Remember that using your cell phone for any reason in a school zone is not only dangerous but it’s also illegal. The fines were increased last year.
  • Bus routes change each year based on the student population, so plan for possible new delays in your commute and consider taking new ways to school or work to avoid delays. This saves time and can make traffic safer with fewer potential bottlenecks.
  • Take extra care to watch for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas. This includes watching out for children riding bikes.
  • Remember that some drivers headed to school will be driving themselves (and possibly siblings) for the first time. They will be both excited and nervous!
  • If you have school-age children, make sure you talk to them about school zone and school bus safety.

For more information about school transportation laws and school safety, visit the Arkansas Department of Education.

We are looking forward to what we hope is a great school year for all!