Amber lights signal school bus awareness
By Kris Leonhardt
MARSHFIELD — Wisconsinites are used to seeing the four-red light system illuminating school buses to signal a stop. As the last state in the nation to adopt the practice, the amber and red eight-light system has become a new addition to Wisconsin roadways this fall.
“As of Aug. 14, all buses manufactured after 2004 will be equipped with eight warning lights — four amber and four red — mounted on the two outside corners of the front and back,” explained Marshfield Traffic Safety Officer Dan Salacinski. “The flashing amber warning lights are new this year. These warning lights are used to warn drivers that the bus is intending to stop soon and that the red warning lights will be activated soon.
“A school bus will display the flashing amber warning lights at least 300 feet before stopping in a 45 mile per hour or greater speed zone or at least 100 feet before stopping in a less than 45 mile per hour speed zone. It is during this time that drivers are permitted to pass the buses, although they should do so with extreme caution and not violate any speed or no passing restrictions to do so.
“Drivers must keep in mind that the school bus driver may activate the red warning lights at any time. At the point the bus stops to load or unload passengers, the driver will extinguish the flashing amber warning lights and actuate the flashing red warning lights. It is at this time that drivers must stop no closer than 20 feet from the front or rear of the school bus and must remain there until the bus driver either begins to move the bus or deactivates the red warning lights.”
Addressing multiple-lane traffic
Drivers on a divided highway with a median or barrier between the lanes do not have to stop if they are approaching from the opposite direction. However, if there is no existing median or barrier, a driver must come to a full stop.
“Drivers who violate this law may receive a citation that holds a forfeiture amount of $326.50 and four demerit points against your driver’s license,” added Salacinski. “That is minor to how you would feel if you caused a crash with another car, the bus, or worse yet a child by violating this law.
“When approaching from the rear or front of a school bus any time of day or week or time of year, a motorist should be prepared to stop if the bus driver activates its amber or red warning lights, although it is more apparent that a school bus may be stopping during the school year, Monday through Friday, from the times of 6 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.”