Q&A - School Buses Blocking the Intersection

Q&A ImageI am wondering about the legalities of the school bus stopping in an intersection to discharge students. Rural road, and the bus stops in the intersection like so: / it crosses the center line to provide coverage for crossing students. Stop signs out and flashing lights activated. I believe if the bus were to be involved in an accident at this time, it would be at fault for crossing the center line. Can you confirm or refute this please?



What we would refer to as "the rules of the road" are found in Part 3 of the Motor Vehicle Act. All drivers must follow these rules unless they are specifically exempted. Certain classes of drivers and activities are, when done with due care in the circumstances. These exemptions are as follows:

The closest fit for a school bus would be a public utility. This is not defined in the Motor Vehicle Act, but is in the Utilities Commission Act:

"public utility" means a person, or the person's lessee, trustee, receiver or liquidator, who owns or operates in British Columbia, equipment or facilities for

(a) the production, generation, storage, transmission, sale, delivery or provision of electricity, natural gas, steam or any other agent for the production of light, heat, cold or power to or for the public or a corporation for compensation, or

(b) the conveyance or transmission of information, messages or communications by guided or unguided electromagnetic waves, including systems of cable, microwave, optical fibre or radiocommunications if that service is offered to the public for compensation,

but does not include

(c) a municipality or regional district in respect of services provided by the municipality or regional district within its own boundaries,

(d) a person not otherwise a public utility who provides the service or commodity only to the person or the person's employees or tenants, if the service or commodity is not resold to or used by others,

(e) a person not otherwise a public utility who is engaged in the petroleum industry or in the wellhead production of oil, natural gas or other natural petroleum substances,

(f) a person not otherwise a public utility who is engaged in the production of a geothermal resource, as defined in the Geothermal Resources Act, or

(g) a person, other than the authority, who enters into or is created by, under or in furtherance of an agreement designated under section 12 (9) of the Hydro and Power Authority Act, in respect of anything done, owned or operated under or in relation to that agreement;

In the absence of case law to the contrary, a school bus is not part of a public utility and not granted an exemption from Part 3. This means that the driver has to follow the rules for stopping on a highway and the rules for parking on a highway.

There are accepted systems for the operation of a school bus, one of which is the Baltimore System:

Loading Students:

Where a Bus Pull-off is provided:

  1. Bus pulls into loading zone clear of traffic flashing
  2. Takes on students without using red flashing lights or 4 way flashers

Where a Bus Pull-off is not provided:

  1. Bus stays in own lane
  2.  Uses overhead flashing lights andtakes on students

Unloading Students:

Where a Bus Pull-off is provided:

  1. Bus pulls into loading zone, without any lights
  2. Students unload; bus leaves; students disperse when safe

Where a Bus Pull-off is not provided:

  1. Bus stops in own lane; uses overhead flashing lights
  2. Students unload; bus leaves; students disperse when safe

This seems to be the system referred to most often by BC school districts.

Reporting that situation

May I suggest that the people to contact on this will be the operators of the bus service; their name will be on the side of the bus. Take a picture and send it to them, even!

School buses usually have proscribed routes and procedures for pickup & dropoff, and the company will want to know whether things are being done properly.

School bus blocking intersection

I may not be reading your question correctly but I believe you are saying the bus in staying in its lane on the main road with the bus blocking the lane of traffic that would be turning onto the highway. If this is so I believe the driver is operating correctly.

When the lights are activate all traffic is required to stop. However if a vehicle was on the side road and turning right some drivers may feel they can do so. By blocking the traffic it would require the driver to go into the on-coming lane and swing around the back of the bus, which is illegal.

If I am correct on my assumption he is doing so to stop impatient drivers that go around the vehicle and putting students walking across the road in front of the bus in danger. It could be the operator of the bus has had difficulties with drivers doing this and just wants to force them to stop.

I maybe be wrong is my assumption of what you were asking. In our area we have several drop off points similar to what I believe you are saying and in all cases the bus driver pulls up just past the stop sign for the side road, stays in its lane on the mail road and discharges students. Students are heading in all directions and the bus always stays where it is till they are safetly across the road and past the bus then turns off all signals and proceeds. Regular traffic is then free to go and the students are on the side of the road they have to be.

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