HELENA — As students across our state return to the classroom, Attorney General Austin Knudsen and the Montana Highway Patrol (MHP) are reminding motorists to follow all school bus and school zone traffic laws, including new laws going into effect this year.

By simply following the law and taking necessary precautions, motorists can help ensure Montana students get to and from school safely.

“If one child gets injured on their way to or from school this year, it will be one too many,” Attorney General Knudsen said. “Everyone can do their part to make sure Montana school kids get home safely each day.”

“As school begins across the state, it’s imperative that every driver know his or her responsibilities when approaching a stopped school bus,” MHP Colonel Steve Lavin said. “The simple acts of paying attention, remaining patient, and understanding the law can help stop preventable tragedies.”

Keep these traffic laws in mind when approaching a school bus:

  • Prepare to slow down when you see the amber/yellow flashing lights. Stop 30 feet from a stopped school bus when it is flashing red lights.
  • When a school bus is stopped at a four-way intersection, vehicles can’t turn left, turn right, or pass the school bus.
  • When the stop arm is out on a school bus and there is a raised median, all traffic traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.
  • When the stop arm is out on a school bus on a non-divided highway or two-lane road, traffic traveling all directions must stop within 30 feet of the bus.

MHP also reminds Montanans to slow down and pay attention to the changing speed limits in school zones, look for children crossing the street near schools, and not to pass a school bus that is stopped.

Following this year’s legislative session, new school bus safety laws are going into effect. First, House Bill 207, allows school buses to add additional red lights, amending the previous law that only four red lights could be installed. Beginning October 1, House Bill 267 will also increase the reckless driving penalties for drivers who pass, in either direction, a stopped school bus that is displaying the visual flashing red signal from $500 to up to $1,000 or possible jail time, punishable upon conviction. 

In 2020, the Montana Highway Patrol investigated 99 school bus violations statewide.

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