When it comes to driving, there are few things more frustrating than getting stuck behind a school bus. I say this with no hate directed to the school buses, the drivers, or the students who are on the bus but if you get caught driving behind one...you might as well put on your favorite radio station, listen to some music, and enjoy the extra stops on your ride. Not only are you dealing with the extra stops, but you should also be alert to the students who may be getting on or off the bus at every stop.

The School Bus Is The Safest Way For Your Student To Get To School

According to the Iowa DOT, riding the school bus to and from school is the safest form of travel for students to and from school. Supposedly, it is safer for your student to ride the school bus to and from school than it is to ride with you in your car. The biggest risk is not riding the bus itself, it's the "danger zones" around the school bus.

The danger zones are the 10 feet that surround the school bus from the front, both sides and back. These areas are where drivers need to be extra alert anytime a school bus stops to allow students on or off the bus.

If you are stopped behind a school bus with its arm extended, is there ever a time you can pass or go around the bus in Iowa?

Unsplash - Benjamin Wedemeyer
Unsplash - Benjamin Wedemeyer

Legally Passing a School Bus in Iowa

According to the Iowa DOT, there is only 1 instance where a car may pass a school bus that is stopped and has its arm extended.

When meeting the bus in one of the opposite two lanes (or more), you do not need to stop, even if the bus has stopped with lights flashing and stop arm out. The bus is not permitted to load or unload children who must cross this type of roadway unless there are official traffic control devices or law enforcement present. This is the only time you may pass a school bus that is stopped and has its stop arm extended.

To answer our question of when can you pass a stopped school bus in the state of Iowa? You can't. Unless you're meeting the bus in one of the opposite two lanes.

Penalties For Passing A Stopped Bus

The Iowa DOT reports your first offense for going around a stopped school bus will be a simple misdemeanor and a fine of at least $345 and no more than $930.You could be put in jail for 30 days and also have your license suspended for 30 days. You will also be required to complete Iowa's Driver Improvement Program.

It goes without saying but fines and penalties for 2nd and 3rd offenses are much more harsh and expensive, as well as losing your license for longer periods of time. If you pass a school bus that causes injury, your fine will be $500, prison time will depend on the injury sustained, and you will lose your license for 90 days.

Kim Snook is the former director of the Iowa DOT's Driver & Identification services and she told the Iowa DOT "We hope that these increased penalties and sanctions will make drivers think twice before foolishly choosing to pass a stopped school bus."

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