As a school-bus driver, it is your responsibility to ensure the safety of your passengers. This is especially important to remember when you are loading or unloading your passengers, as these are the times at which they are most vulnerable.

“Spotters,” or safety patrollers, may help the school-bus driver when loading or unloading a school bus. The spotter can prevent the driver from hitting children who may have stopped in a blind area in front of the vehicle.

Recently developed safety equipment includes newly designed mirrors or multiple mirror-adjustment systems, motion-detector systems, bumper-mounted crossing barriers, and perimeter braking systems. When drivers and passengers are trained to use them effectively, they will enhance safety.

What you need to know:

As of July 1, 2022, school buses in Ontario manufactured on or after January 1, 2005, are required to operate an Eight Lamp Amber-Red Warning System. This system uses two stages of flashing overhead lights that indicate when the school bus is coming to a stop (flashing overhead amber lights) and when the bus has  stopped to pick up or drop-off passengers (flashing overhead red lights).

Keep the following rules in mind:

  • Turn on the flashing overhead amber lights as you approach a stop to load or unload your passengers.
  • As soon as the bus is stopped, the overhead red lights must be engaged and its stop arm must be activated.
  • Remain stopped with the overhead red lights flashing and the stop arm activated until all passengers who must cross the highway have done so.
  • Do not load or unload passengers on a steep grade or curve. You should have a clear view of the road in each direction for at least 150 metres (500 ft.).
  • Stop on the travelled portion of the roadway and not the shoulder to load or unload passengers.
  • Never load the bus beyond its licensed capacity.
  • As a final step in loading passengers, you must ensure that all traffic has stopped before signalling students to board.

Loading and unloading passengers at traffic-signal lights

When loading or unloading at traffic-signal lights, do not activate the upper, alternating red flashing lights and stop arm on the school bus. The stop should be made as close as possible to the intersection, close to the curb or edge of the roadway, and the passengers cautioned to obey the traffic-signal lights.

If a driver needs to stop near an intersection with traffic-signal lights and use the flashing red lights and stop arm, the stop should be made at least 60 metres from the intersection.

School-bus loading zones

School-bus loading zones are areas of a roadway or school driveway designated as passenger loading/unloading zones by signs that set out the limits of the zones.

In school-bus loading zones, stop the bus close to the right curb or edge of the roadway between the signs setting out the limits of the zone.

Keep in mind these two important rules of school-bus loading zones:

  1. Do not operate the flashing lights and stop arm within a school-bus loading zone.
  2. Do not stop your bus to load or unload passengers on the opposite side of the highway from a school-bus loading zone.

Rules for passengers

As the driver, you must ensure that your passengers observe the following rules:

  • Upon entering the bus, passengers should go directly to their seats and sit down. All passengers should be seated before you move the bus again.
  • Passengers should not enter or leave the bus while it is moving.
  • Passengers should not obstruct the vision of the driver to the front, sides or rear.
  • Passengers should stay seated until the bus has come to a full stop.
  • Passengers leaving the vehicle should cross only in front of the bus and approximately three metres (10 ft.) from the front of the bus, using the safety crossing arm as a guide.
  • When more than one student leaves the bus, students should form a group in the front of the bus and on the right shoulder or curb of the road; the group should then look for the driver’s signal indicating it is safe to cross.
  • Passengers who remain on the right side of the stopped bus should form a group and stay together, away from the front right corner of the bus, until the bus moves away.
  • Passengers should look both ways before stepping into the roadway, and continue to watch for traffic as they cross.
  • Passengers should always cross the roadway at a right angle to the bus, never diagonally.
  • Passengers should walk, never run, when crossing the roadway.

Note: Before driving off, you should check the convex cross-over mirrors to ensure that no passengers are crossing in front of the school bus.