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Can You Pass a School Bus Flashing Yellow Lights?

School bus - Illustration by Anton Novikov


Yellow, or amber, lights mean caution.

When amber lights begin flashing on top of a school bus, they mean that the school bus is slowing down and preparing to stop. You must proceed with caution and watch for children by the side of the road. Remember, children are often unpredictable and may not see you coming. They could run into the road at any time.

In general, you are not prohibited from pass a school bus in this situation, even if it should be avoided. When passing the bus, your view to the sides is limited. Children may attempt to cross the road close to the bus.

Stay alert, if you have already started to pass.

Some states specifically require you to slow down when passing or overtaking the bus. In South Dakota and Iowa you may not exceed 20 mph in this situation. Utah law says you “shall slow the vehicle, but may proceed past the school bus using due care and caution at a speed not greater than specified for school zones for the safety of the school children that may be in the vicinity”.

South Carolina does not Allow Passing

In South Carolina you must always stop when overtaking a school bus flashing red or amber lights.

Photo credit: Anton Novikov

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  1. Does this apply in NY as well?

    • NY code requires you to stop for a school bus has that has “stopped to receive or discharge any passengers” and “when there is in operation on said school bus a red visual signal”.

      It does not mention amber lights.

  2. It’s tru.. there have beeen moments that school busses suddenly go from amber to complete red in less than five seconds giving u barely enough time to properly comply.

  3. I was moving down folsom one afternoon and I was in the center lane when I spotted a school bus to my right and saw the red light come on, I tried to stop only to have 3 cars honked madeley at me and one motorcycle cursed me out…either they did not see the school bus or thought to pass anyway as I believe we were even with the school bus when I saw him…I found I had to keep moving, as cars behind me who were traveling at 45 too might have hit me. When I looked in my rear view other cars were stopping.

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