Motorists are being reminded to keep a sharp eye out for students, school buses and crossing guards. The State Patrol’s September Law of the Month details state laws designed to protect students as they head to and from school activities.

Many Wisconsin school buses are now fitted with amber lights. When flashing, the amber lights tell drivers to slow down because the red flashing lights will soon be activated and the bus is about to stop. Drivers can carefully pass a school bus with amber lights activated, but should do so cautiously.

Wisconsin law (346.48) requires drivers to stop at least 20 feet from a stopped school bus that has its red warning lights flashing. The law applies when approaching a school bus from either direction. The only exception is if you are traveling on the other side of a divided roadway separated by a median or other physical barrier. When passed illegally, school bus drivers are authorized to report violations to law enforcement. A citation for failure to stop for a school bus costs $326 and four demerit points. Last year in Wisconsin, there were 1,016 traffic convictions for failure to stop for a school bus, according to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation.

“Passing a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing is illegal and very dangerous,” said Wisconsin State Patrol Captain Travis Wanless, Commander of the North Central Region State Patrol Post in Wausau. “Children are easily distracted and don’t always think about their own safety, so drivers need to be extra alert.”

State law also requires drivers to yield when directed to stop by a school crossing guard (346.46 (2m). Like bus drivers, crossing guards have the authority to report violations to law enforcement.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation and its Division of State Patrol have produced a podcast on this topic providing additional information about school bus laws and inspections (