It’s back to school time again! School buses will be making their rounds and kids will be walking on the roads. The first day of school for Bloomer and New Auburn is Tuesday, Sept. 4.

    Drivers should be aware that starting last year an amber warning light system on all school busses went into effect. Flashing amber lights affixed to the front and back of each school bus are activated as the bus slows to a stop to load or unload passengers. The new system is aimed at improving alerts to other motorists whenever a school bus is preparing to stop in traffic.

Officials say the previous system of flashing red lights was sometimes confusing, especially when the flashing started while a bus was still in motion. The yellow lights will start flashing about 300 feet before a bus stops and the red lights will continue flashing during the loading or unloading of riders.

Wisconsin state law prohibits motorists from passing whenever a school bus has stopped in traffic with its red lights flashing. The new yellow lights do not require a motorist to stop, but they are designed as an early-warning system.

Lt. Karl Mittelstadt of the Wisconsin Highway Patrol states if a vehicle does not stop for a school bus displaying its red warning lights, the penalty is $326 and four points will be assessed to the drivers driving record.  

“The penalty is small compared to what could happen of a child getting injured or killed due to somebody not adhering to the red warning lights” Lt. Mittlestadt said. 

“The new requirements are simple: Flashing amber lights are a signal that the school bus is preparing to stop, so drivers need to slow down, pay attention and proceed carefully. Drivers are allowed to pass a moving bus with flashing amber lights, but they should do so cautiously,” he states. “However, once the bus displays flashing red warning lights, drivers both in front of and behind the bus must stop at least 20 feet from the bus and remain stopped until the red lights are turned off or the bus resumes travel. Drivers must stop even if the red stop-sign arm on the side of the bus is not extended.”

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