Passing a Stopped School Bus

North Carolina laws frown heavily on passing a stopped school bus. The penalties are swift and substantial – much more than getting a traffic ticket. Further, the consequences of a conviction of this category of traffic infraction are unpleasant.

Not only do you face the possibility of going to jail, you are also in danger of a negative impact on your driver's license and insurance policy. This is in addition to the unpleasant effect of having a criminal record on your file. Simply put, a conviction on your record could make things very unpleasant for you in the future. This is why if you or your loved one is facing a charge of passing a stopped school bus, you should hire a North Carolina traffic lawyer immediately. At the Stowe Law firm, we are dedicated to providing the highest levels of representation to protect you. We will fight aggressively for you and ensure that you get the best possible results.

Passing a stopped school bus under North Carolina law

North Carolina law G.S. 20-217 demands that drivers approaching a stopped school bus must stop and not attempt to pass it while its mechanical arms are extended or its red signal lights are flashing. The driver of the other vehicle must also remain stopped until the mechanical arm has been withdrawn or the signal lights turned off and the bus has started to move.

The reason for this law is the high potential for fatal and injury accidents that can result from passing a stopped school bus. In the United States, between August 2018 and March 2019, 12 children were killed and 47 were injured while getting on and off school buses. The buses in question had their stop-arms extended or their red signal lights flashing.

When should I stop for a school bus?

According to the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles (NCDMV), motorists around school buses must observe the following:

  • Two-lane roadway: When the school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
  • Two-lane roadway with a center turning: When the school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.
  • In a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation: When the school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.
  • In a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane: When the school bus stops for passengers, only traffic following the bus must stop.
  • In a four-lane roadway without a median separation: When the school bus stops for passengers, all traffic from both directions must stop.

What type of vehicle is a school bus?

Under North Carolina law a school bus includes a vehicle that possesses any of the following characteristics:

  • A public school bus transporting children or school personnel
  • A public school bus transporting senior citizens
  • A privately owned bus transporting children – as long as the bus bears a plainly visible sign containing the words “school bus” on its front and rear.

Penalties for passing a stopped school bus in North Carolina

Depending on the facts and circumstances of the incident, passing a stopped school bus can be a Class 1 misdemeanor, Class I felony or a Class H felony.

Class 1 misdemeanor

If you are charged with passing a stopped school bus in violation of G.S 20-217 but caused no accident or injury, you will be charged under a Class 1 misdemeanor. This is the least serious form of the violation. Class 1 misdemeanors, however, are the second most serious level of the four levels of misdemeanors in North Carolina. The penalty is a maximum period of one hundred and twenty (120) days in jail and a fine of $500.00. Unfortunately, the fine for passing a school bus is mandatory.

Class I felony

If a driver willfully passes a stopped school bus and as a result, hits a pedestrian, he or will face a Class I felony. A Class I felony is the least serious felony in North Carolina law. A Class I felony carries a maximum prison sentence of 24 months in jail.

Class H felony

If a driver willfully passes a stopped school bus in violation of G.S. 20-217 and hits a person, thereby causing the person’s death, he or she is guilty of a Class H felony. A Class H felony carries a maximum of 39 months in prison.

Repeat offenses

  • For a first-time offender, the conviction is most times a Class 1 misdemeanor.
  • If the conviction is the second one in three years, the defendant's driver's license will be revoked for one year in addition to other mandatory fines.
  • If the conviction is the third time in three years, the defendant's driver's license will be permanently revoked.

Other penalties

A person that passes a stopped school bus while driving a commercial vehicle is subject to eight (8) driver’s license points. If the driver was driving a passenger vehicle when he or she passed the stopped school bus, he or she gets five (5) driver’s license points.

The NCDMV uses these points to assess North Carolina drivers and determine whether to allow the keep their licenses. If you accumulate a total of twelve (12) or more points during a three-year window, your license will be suspended.

Your driver’s license is not the only thing that is affected – your insurance points take a hit too. If you are convicted of passing a stopped school bus, you get four (4) insurance points. If you are convicted of passing a stopped school bus, your insurance rates will increase by eighty percent (80%). One insurance point could lead to a thirty per cent (30%) increase in your premium. A twelve point insurance point could mean a 340% increase in your insurance premium.

As you can see, a conviction for passing a stopped school bus is very expensive. This is why if you are facing these charges, you should immediately contact a skilled North Carolina traffic attorney.

A traffic lawyer can help

If you or your loved one is facing a charge of passing a stopped school bus, you should contact a traffic lawyer immediately. Prosecutors are usually firm on pursuing convictions for people arrested with this offense. As your traffic lawyer we will work towards reducing the charge against you or fighting it out at trial. Generally speaking most of these offenses will be for trial.

At Stowe Law Firm, PLLC, we understand that these laws are not often violated intentionally. We also understand how a conviction can adversely affect your life, career and ability to get a loan. We will fight for your freedom and advocate for your rights.

If you are facing a charge of passing a stopped school bus in Rowan County call us for a consultation. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call 704-856-9502 or reach out to us via our contact page.

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Ryan Stowe is the principal attorney at Stowe Law Firm, PLLC. Mr. Stowe is proud to be practicing in his hometown of Salisbury, NC, and is a first generation Rowan County attorney. Mr. Stowe takes pride in being a criminal defense attorney. He focuse…

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