Wait, when should I stop for a school bus? 

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Let’s say you’ve just left Park Road Park and you’re headed to Fabo Café – which, for the record, would be a pretty great afternoon. Anyway, you’re headed south on Park Road just past Archdale. Two lanes of traffic going one way, two lanes going the other way, and a turn lane in between. A school bus that’s headed north flips on its yellow lights and begins to slow. Do you stop?

The things I know for sure about stopping for school buses have always been pretty limited to the basics: You can get a bunch of points on your license if you don’t, but sometimes you don’t have to.

Not particularly helpful.

So the trepidation I feel approaching a bus’s yellow flashers borders on panic. If there’s a median, you don’t stop; right? Did I make that up, though? Should I stop anyway just in case? But then aren’t I just causing more problems? I should really look this up when I get home.

Well, today I did.

And apparently, you’re supposed to stop almost always.

Here are the two most important things to remember:

(1) Okay, easy stuff first. If you’re behind the bus, always stop. (Always.)

(2) The only time you don’t stop for a school bus is when there are at least four lanes of traffic AND something in the middle, like a median or turn lane.

“Even when I’m on the other side of the road, though?” Yep!

Take a look:

Now let’s go back to heading south on Park Road during your awesome afternoon. Two lanes in each direction, separated by a turn lane, bus is headed north. Do you stop?

Nope! You can keep right on cruising to Fabo. But if you were, say, headed south on 7th Street leaving Independence Park and on your way to catch a matinee at Carolina Cinemas, instead – whole other story.

See, near 7th and Hawthorne, you would have to stop because there are only three lanes of traffic, regardless of how those lane signs configure who gets to use them. But as 7th turns into Monroe closer to East Meck, you’d have to be a bit more vigilant since turn lanes and medians come and go, and there are two lanes going in each direction.

But the theatre would be worth it, so there’s that.

Cover image via Phil Roeder on Flickr (Creative Commons)

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Brittany Stone
Linguist. Fan of bookstore smells, hip hop, my backpack, and democracy. Freelance thinker. Beyoncé enthusiast.