Lights flash on buses to warn motorists that buses are picking up and dropping off children. By law, a driver must not overtake or pass a bus with flashing lights at more than 40km/h.
Lights begin to flash when the bus stops and the doors open, and they keep flashing for about 20 seconds after the doors close. Children are most at risk in the minutes after they get off the bus.
Young children are often unpredictable in their movements. They are still developing the skills that help them to judge the direction of sound and the speed and distance of vehicles.
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We know that because of their sheer size and mass, buses can cause severe outcomes for other road users in crashes. Motorists can help reduce the risk by:
- Slowing down to 40km/h when bus lights are flashing
- Looking out for children crossing the road near bus stops, in school zones or along bus routes
- Giving way to buses when they merge back into traffic.
Drivers must take extra care when driving past bus stops or along bus routes in rural and regional areas. Be aware of children crossing the road and slow down to 40km/h when bus lights flash. A stationary bus can impede your view of children near the bus.
The penalties vary depending on the size of the vehicle detected travelling greater than 40km/h. For cars, the penalties are:
Pass school bus at: more than 40km/h - 10km/h and under - $123 and 1 demerit point; over 10km/h - $285 and 3 demerit points; over 20km/h - $489 and 4 demerit points; over 30km/h - $935 and 5 demerit points; over 45km/h - $3955 and 6 demerit points
School zone type offences generally carry a higher fine and more demerit points than non-school zone offences due to the emphasis government places on the safety of children.
I'm sure we would all agree though, that the greatest penalty a motorist, as well as family, a victim, the school, friends and our community, would face is the death or serious injury of a child on a road in our part of the world.