Passing a Stopped School Bus, VA Code 46.2-859 and VA Code 46.2-844

Passing a Stopped School Bus, VA Code 46.2-859 and VA Code 46.2-844

Now that the back-to-school season has begun, it is important to be reminded of a driver’s duty to stop for stopped school buses.  Passing a stopped school bus in Virginia is a form of reckless driving. Reckless driving in Virginia is not a traffic infraction. It is a criminal offense and a Class 1 misdemeanor. The code section for the offense is VA Code 46.2-859. For there to be a conviction under this section, the bus must have been taking on or discharging passengers. A key element of the offense is the requirement that the school bus be equipped with a warning sign that conforms with the requirements outlined in VA Code § 46.2-1090.   In addition, Section 46.2-859 requires that the bus be painted yellow and have clear lettering indicating that it is a school bus. The words “school bus” must be painted in black lettering at least 8 inches high on the front and rear of the bus.

A driver is required to stop completely and wait for the completion of the taking on or discharging of passengers. When the bus begins moving again, the driver may proceed. It is not necessary for the school bus to carry children. The statute also applies if the passengers are elderly or mentally or physically handicapped.

The police officer or bus driver may testify that the bus was yellow, marked appropriately, and equipped with the necessary warning signs in order to help prove the bus was, in fact, a school bus. A defendant may have a possible defense if the prosecutor does not prove all of these elements during the trial. This may occur if the officer or other witness forgets whether or not the bus had all of the requirements under the statute to make the bus qualify as a school bus.

Additional Notes on Passing a Stopped School Bus

If the driver is approaching a school bus on the other roadway of a divided highway, there is no requirement to stop.  Similarly, if the school bus is stopped on an access road or driveway and the other access road or driveway is separated from the driver’s roadway by a physical barrier or access road, there is no requirement to stop.

If the school bus is adjacent to a school and the driver is directed to pass by a law enforcement officer or duly authorized school official, there is no requirement to stop.

VA Code 46.2-859: A Criminal Offense with Serious Consequences

There is also a civil infraction form for this offense, falling under the Code of Virginia 46.2-844. This particular section of the code is designed to address traffic violations that, while not reaching the severity of reckless driving, still warrant legal consequences. The civil version of the offense is considered a traffic infraction and carries a punishment in the form of a civil penalty, imposing a $250 fine on the offender. This approach allows for a differentiation between more serious criminal misdemeanors, such as reckless driving, and less severe traffic infractions, providing a nuanced legal framework for addressing various levels of offenses on the road.

VA Code 46.2-844: A Civil Offense with Traffic Infraction Consequences

Furthermore, when an offense is charged under the Code of Virginia 46.2-844, it is crucial to note that it does not escalate to the level of a criminal misdemeanor, distinguishing it from the consequences associated with reckless driving. Reckless driving, governed by a different section of the Virginia Code (46.2-859), carries more severe penalties and a higher demerit point balance. This distinction helps legal authorities properly categorize and address different types of driving offenses, ensuring that the punishment aligns with the gravity of the violation committed.

Please consult with a Virginia reckless driving lawyer if you have additional questions about this offense.

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