Data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that an average of 3,500 people die yearly from distracted driving instances. While you may not be guilty of careless driving, you can likely admit you’ve previously driven while distracted behind the wheel.
Whether eating, texting, applying makeup, or simply reaching for something in the back seat, it’s far too easy to become distracted while driving. And if you don’t carefully pay attention to the road, you could easily blow past a red light, a stop sign, or worse, a Florida school bus.
If you pass a school bus illegally, not only can you get a traffic ticket, but you could also cause injury to children or school bus drivers. Here we’ll discuss the fine for passing a school bus in Florida, so you know just how stiff the penalties can be for this violation.
Understanding Florida’s School Bus Stop Law
Florida Statute 316.172 details when motorists must stop for a school bus when the bus is at a designated school bus stop or within a school zone in Florida.
Let’s get into the specifics.
Two-Lane vs. Multi-Lane Roads
All motorists on a two-way road must stop for a school bus displaying its stop signals. That means drivers going in the same direction as the bus and those driving in the opposite direction must stop.
Those operating motor vehicles on multi-lane roads must also stop when they see a school bus with red lights flashing. Drivers coming from both directions must stop and cannot pass the school bus, even though there may be multiple lanes between them.
If there is a stopped school bus on a divided highway, Florida drivers can continue cautiously moving. Note that this is the only instance when passing a stopped school bus is not a moving violation.
Florida law defines a divided highway as a roadway with an elevated or raised barrier made of concrete between lanes going opposite directions or an unpaved median, such as grass or land, at least five feet wide between lanes going opposite directions.
The law doesn’t consider pavement or paint markings a raised median unless there are five feet of space between the markings.
What Are the Fines and Penalties if You Pass a School Bus?
The Florida fine for passing a school bus depends on which side you passed the school bus on, the left or right side, which side of the street you passed the bus on, and whether you caused an injury.
For example, passing on the right side of the bus is more dangerous because that’s the side where children get on and off the bus. Although passing on the left is still hazardous because kids can dart out from in front of the bus to cross the street, Florida traffic laws state that passing on the right side is more severe.
Below we detail the fines and penalties for the different violations.
Passing on the Same Side of the Street
The penalties for illegally passing a school bus on the same side of the street or the ride side of the bus are as follows:
- A minimum fine of $400
- Completion of a driver improvement course
- Four points on your driving record
- Up to one year in jail
Keep in mind these penalties are for a first offense. If a second offense occurs within five years, the state may suspend your driver’s license for up to two years.
Passing on the Opposing Traffic Side
The penalties are similar if you illegally pass a school bus on the opposite side of the street or on the left side of the bus. You will still receive points on your record and must attend driving school.
However, the minimum penalty fine is $200, and the maximum sentence is up to six months in jail. If you break this law again within five years, the state could issue a license suspension of up to one year.
Causing Serious Injury or Death
According to Florida’s Cameron Mayhew Act, if you caused a serious injury or death because you passed a stopped school bus, you’ll face the following punishments:
- A $1,500 fine
- Completion of a victim impact panel or driver improvement course if a victim impact panel isn’t available
- Minimum one-year driver’s license suspension
- 6 points on your driving record
- 120 hours of community service
What to Do If You Get Cited
Disclaimer: The suggestions below do not constitute formal legal advice. Contact our lawyers for specific advice about your case.
If you get a traffic ticket for passing a school bus, you’ll need to appear in court on the date listed on the citation. The hearing is mandatory, so you may get an even harsher sentence if you fail to show up.
It’s best to hire a lawyer to attend the hearing with you. This way, you’ll fully understand the penalties against you. An experienced attorney can also help minimize the impact of your infraction.
Further, to keep from passing a school bus illegally again, remember the following:
- The bus will flash yellow lights to indicate it’s about to stop, warning motorists nearby.
- If you see the red flashing lights or stop arm, you must stop according to the abovementioned rules.
- Once the bus driver turns off the red lights and retracts the stop arm, it’s safe to proceed as usual.
You should also read some school bus safety tips to further understand how to avoid breaking Florida’s school bus rules.
Get Legal Help for Your Traffic Violation
As you can see, the fine for passing a school bus in Florida can be severe, depending on the offense. Hence, hiring a lawyer is the best way to move forward after receiving a ticket for the infraction.
If you live in Tampa or Hollywood, schedule your free consultation now with the Florida Ticket Law Firm. Our attorneys have years of experience handling various traffic violations in Florida and can help you with your case.