Unlike the United Kingdom where many children are bused to school by local bus and coach operators using their own vehicles in their own colour schemes, in Florida like the rest of the USA, all school buses are painted in the distinctive yellow school bus colours and are equipped with large hexagonal red stop signs that fold out from the sides of the bus on the offside (left hand side viewed from the rear).
To reduce the number of children killed or injured getting on and off school buses, all US States, have specific school bus stop laws.
Florida State law says that if you approach a school bus which is displaying flashing red stop signals and an extended stop sign, then you must not pass the bus but must come to a complete halt. You must not move off until the bus turns off the flashing stop lights and retracts its stop sign(s).
The same rules apply if you are travelling in the opposite direction and there is not a physical barrier, an unpaved space at least five feet wide or a raised median between you and the bus. Central turn lanes are not regarded as a barrier in this case.
This means the only time you can pass a school bus with flashing stop signals is if you are travelling in the opposite direction on a divided highway with a barrier between the two carriageways as noted above. Even then you should take extra care as children do not always pay attention when getting on or off a bus.
School buses are also equipped with flashing yellow lights. Though you do not need to stop if you see a bus with flashing yellow lights, they are generally used as a warning to other drivers that they are about to stop to load or unload school children.
It is estimated that there are nearly 9,000 illegal “pass-by’s” of Florida school buses each day. Any driver who ignores the law is subject to a moving violation with a first offence fine of $165, a requirement to attend a basic Driver Improvement Course and the possibility of a licence suspension for repeat offenders.
Note that the law on school bus stops in other States varies. For instance, in some States, you must stop at intersections or even on a divided highway if a school bus is stopped with flashing lights.