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School bus stopped at T-intersection is a tricky situation

Published October 3, 2013
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Q: If you’re stopped at a T-intersection and a school bus with lights flashing is on the cross street, do you have to remain stopped or can you proceed if your turn will take you away from the bus?

Best I can figure, if you’re both stopped right at the intersection, all traffic should halt until the red lights are off.

But, if the bus is more than 20 metres away, as per S. 175 (12) HTA, then you may proceed (but that seems to be stretching the meaning of this section).

Ontario Transportation Ministry spokesperson Bob Nichols replies:

Under S. 175 (11,12) of the Highway Traffic Act, if the school bus is stopped and has its overhead red lights flashing, drivers who are “meeting” the bus must stop before reaching it and must not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead lights have stopped flashing.

If a driver is “approaching” the bus from the rear, they must stop at least 20 metres before reaching the bus and must not proceed until the bus moves or the overhead lights have stopped flashing.

Stephen Parker, a licensed paralegal with Pointts, replies:

If you are at the tail of a T-intersection and a school bus stops on your right on the cross street with its roof lights on, you cannot make a right turn but you can turn left, away from the bus. The bus could be stopped with either its front or back to you, on your right.

The same would apply if the bus is stopped to your left. If the front is to the left, you could turn right, away from the bus, but you could not turn left as you would now be facing or “meeting” the bus.

If the bus is stopped so the rear is to the left, again, you cannot turn left as you would now be “approaching” the bus, but you can turn right, away from it.

Each situation is different and we’d have to review the entire file to provide legal advice.

Eric Lai adds:

All motorists must take care around school buses that are loading or unloading passengers.

Although it might be lawful to turn away from a stopped school bus with lights flashing at a T-intersection, it might be safer not to, since young children exiting the bus could conceivably run across the road in front of you.

If that happens, all traffic at the intersection should halt as, under S. 142 (1,2) HTA, drivers may only proceed to turn or start from a stopped position when it is safe to do so.

Note that all information above is of a general nature and should not be taken as legal advice or opinion.

Email your non-mechanical questions to Eric Lai at wheels@thestar.ca. Due to the volume of mail, personal replies cannot be provided.

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