Police across the state are reminding motorists about the traffic laws around school buses. In Cedar Rapids alone, school bus drivers recorded 28 violations of laws by other motorists during the first eight days of the school year. Iowa Department of Public Safety spokesperson Jessica Lown says there are several different laws to obey depending on the number of lanes of traffic and if you’re approaching the front or rear of the bus.

“I just tell people the rule of thumb is if you see a school bus, start looking for flashing lights. If you see flashing lights, you need to slow down and be prepared to stop,” Lown said. According to Iowa law, on a two-lane road, it’s illegal to pass a school bus from behind when its yellow lights are flashing. When a bus is stopped, oncoming and following motorists must also stop. The unlawful passing of a school bus carries a fine of $195 with court costs.

Lown says it’s also a good idea to slow down in school zones. “You need to be aware that there are going to be small children, maybe even darting in and out between cars,” Lown said. School zone speed limits are usually around 20 miles per hour. Rural roads can be especially dangerous just before and after school. For instance, unsuspecting motorists may not realize a school bus is stopped just over the crest of a hill.

“Unfortunately, a couple of years ago, a teenager – during School Bus Safety Week in fact – ran into the back of a school bus and lost his life,” Lown said. “It’s a tragic thing that happens, so you just need to be paying attention anytime you see a big yellow school bus.”