It’s Back to School Time..Now Do I Have to Stop for That School Bus?

It’s almost back to school time which means, sometime in the next couple weeks, many parents out in the Valley will be going through this yearly inquiry:

“How fast may1)you all speak with impeccable grammar from what I hear I drive in this school zone?”

“Do I have to stop for this school bus if there is a median between us?”

“Do I have to stop for the crossing guard?”

Let this be the year we all know for sure! Onward and upward.

Hopefully, the answers I found are helpful. Worst case, you can notate the relevant statute in your ithing just in case you need to reference it during a traffic stop.

May You Pass a School Bus?

As loyal2)by no means a requirement! Rick Hasen is a great writer. readers of the Clear Counsel Legal Blog, you know that we live in a (newly modified!) Dillon rule state, meaning that the state, in most cases, must expressly assign power to legislate to a locality.3)Small footnoted tangent: Have you seen (this is rhetorical, I know you’re busy) what the legislature did to our Dillon rule common law last session? First, I’ll define the terms. Justice Dillon (of Iowa) wrote a common law doctrine in the 19th Century adopted by Nevada courts. The Dillon Rule, as it’s known, states that localities do not have the authority to legislate unless said authority is expressly granted by the state government. Last legislative session, the state government made a significant amendment. Check out Section 5 of new bill: “As a general rule on local governmental power, Dillon’s Rule serves an important function in defining the powers of county government and remains a vital component of Nevada law. However, with regard to matters of local concern, a strict interpretation and application of Dillon’s Rule unnecessarily restricts a board of county commissioners from taking appropriate actions that are necessary or proper to address matters of local concern for the effective operation of county government and thereby impedes the board from responding to and serving the needs of local citizens diligently, decisively and effectively.”(emphasis added). If you, like me, are tired of the “tyranny of the north” as I like to call it, this is a great result! Clark County brings in almost all of the state’s revenue, and in turn, should be given the authority to pass the laws necessary to improve our lovely community without folks from Elko stopping us. This was impossible under the old Dillon Rule. Hope is on the way my friends..Hopefully my friends in Clark County realize what we have here..4)After some cursory research, this may be the first time the Dillon Rule (in about 150 years) that it has been codified by a state. Pretty interesting in terms of history of law.

Therefore, most of the applicable laws with regards to school zones come from the state government, in particular Chapter 484B Rules of the Road. This is where we will begin our examination.

NRS 484B.353  Overtaking and passing school bus: Duties of driver; exceptions; penalties.

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, the driver of any vehicle, when meeting or overtaking, from either direction, any school bus, equipped with signs and signals required by law, which has stopped to receive or discharge any pupil and is displaying a flashing red light signal visible from the front and rear, shall bring the vehicle to an immediate stop and shall not attempt to overtake or proceed past the school bus until the flashing red signal ceases operation.

      2.  The driver of a vehicle upon a divided highway need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is positioned in the other roadway. The driver of a vehicle need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus where traffic is controlled by a traffic officer.

      3.  Any person who violates any of the provisions of this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and:

      (a) For a third or any subsequent offense within 2 years after the most recent offense, shall be punished by a fine of not more than $1,000 and the driver’s license of the person must be suspended for not more than 1 year.

      (b) For a second offense within 1 year after the first offense, shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $500 and the driver’s license of the person must be suspended for 6 months.

      (c) For a first offense or any subsequent offense for which a punishment is not provided for in paragraph (a) or (b), shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 nor more than $500.

      (Added to NRS by 1969, 1506; A 1975, 825; 1991, 276; 1997, 3060; 2007, 15) — (Substituted in revision for NRS 484.357) (emphasis added)

Why are the laws written in such obscure language? I could speculate, but that isn’t productive. Either way, I apologize on their behalf. You deserve better.

Let’s Unpack This Statute

Section 1 establishes that there are two conditions necessary to require you to stop:  1.) The school bus is stopped with its lights flashing (or stop sign out) and

2.) Children are entering or exiting the bus.

Neither element is sufficient on its own to require you to stop (as written). Both elements must be present, or you are free to drive along on your merry way.

Now, let’s take a look at that awkwardly constructed sentence in Section 2.  While driving in a “divided highway,” you “need not stop” if the stopped school bus is on the “other roadway,” or if a traffic officer controls traffic on the opposite side of the street.

So may you pass a stopped school bus on the other side of a median? It depends what they mean by “divided highway.”

Although not defined in Chapter 484B, Chapter 484A of the NRS applies to “Traffic Laws Generally.” From 484A, we have a definition of a “divided highway.” The term “means a highway divided into two or more roadways by means of a physical barrier or dividing section, constructed so as to impede the conflict of vehicular traffic traveling in opposite directions.”5)Cite

And there we have it. No need to stop if the stopped bus on the the opposite side of a “divided highway.” Aren’t you glad we checked?

There Are Many Prohibitions Regarding Driving in a School Zone: Get a Pen

Just don’t drive faster than 15 mph, right? I mean, that is a requirement, yes. But not even close to the only one. I have included all of NRS 484B.363 to make my point:

      NRS 484B.363  School zone or school crossing zone: Speed limit; designation; signs; U-turn and overtaking another vehicle prohibited; determination of hours in which speed limit is in effect; additional penalty if driver is proximate cause of collision with pedestrian or person riding bicycle.

      1.  A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of 15 miles per hour in an area designated as a school zone except:

      (a) On a day on which school is not in session;

      (b) During the period from a half hour after school is no longer in operation to a half hour before school is next in operation;

      (c) If the zone is designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the hours when the pupils of the school are in class and the yellow lights of the speed limit beacon are not flashing in the manner which indicates that the speed limit is in effect; or

      (d) If the zone is not designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the times when the sign designating the school zone indicates that the speed limit is not in effect.

      2.  A person shall not drive a motor vehicle at a speed in excess of 25 miles per hour in an area designated as a school crossing zone except:

      (a) On a day on which school is not in session;

      (b) During the period from a half hour after school is no longer in operation to a half hour before school is next in operation;

      (c) If the zone is designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the hours when the pupils of the school are in class and the yellow lights of the speed limit beacon are not flashing in the manner which indicates that the speed limit is in effect; or

      (d) If the zone is not designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the times when the sign designating the school zone indicates that the speed limit is not in effect.

      3.  The driver of a vehicle shall not make a U-turn in an area designated as a school zone or school crossing zone except:

      (a) When there are no children present;

      (b) On a day on which school is not in session;

      (c) During the period from a half hour after school is no longer in operation to a half hour before school is next in operation;

      (d) If the zone is designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the hours when the pupils of the school are in class and the yellow lights of the speed limit beacon are not flashing in the manner which indicates that the speed limit is in effect; or

      (e) If the zone is not designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the times when the sign designating the school zone or school crossing zone indicates that the speed limit is not in effect.

      4.  The driver of a vehicle shall not overtake and pass another vehicle traveling in the same direction in an area designated as a school zone or school crossing zone except:

      (a) On a day on which the school is not in session;

      (b) During the period from a half hour after school is no longer in operation to a half hour before school is next in operation;

      (c) If the zone is designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the hours when the pupils of the school are in class and the yellow lights of the speed limit beacon are not flashing in the manner which indicates that the speed limit is in effect; or

      (d) If the zone is not designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the times when the sign designating the school zone or school crossing zone indicates that the speed limit is not in effect.

      5.  The governing body of a local government or the Department of Transportation shall designate school zones and school crossing zones. An area must not be designated as a school zone if imposing a speed limit of 15 miles per hour would be unsafe because of higher speed limits in adjoining areas.6)Dillon!

      6.  Each such governing body and the Department of Transportation shall provide signs to mark the beginning and end of each school zone and school crossing zone which it respectively designates. Each sign marking the beginning of such a zone must include a designation of the hours when the speed limit is in effect or that the speed limit is in effect when children are present.

      7.  With respect to each school zone and school crossing zone in a school district, the superintendent of the school district or his or her designee, in conjunction with the Department of Transportation and the governing body of the local government that designated the school zone or school crossing zone and after consulting with the principal of the school and the agency that is responsible for enforcing the speed limit in the zone, shall determine the times when the speed limit is in effect.

      8.  If, while violating any provision of subsections 1 to 4, inclusive, the driver of a motor vehicle is the proximate cause of a collision with a pedestrian or a person riding a bicycle, the driver is subject to the additional penalty set forth in subsection 4 of NRS 484B.653.

      9.  As used in this section, “speed limit beacon” means a device which is used in conjunction with a sign and equipped with two or more yellow lights that flash alternately to indicate when the speed limit in a school zone or school crossing zone is in effect.

      (Added to NRS by 1985, 640; A 1993, 2586; 1999, 2674; 2011, 1635; 2015, 1574) — (Substituted in revision for NRS 484.366) (emphasis added)

When did you stop reading? After the first time you saw the term “speed limit beacon”7)Was there a contest at the legislature to come up with the most obscure term possible for school zone signs? Who even uses beacon in this context anymore?8)Want to try something fun, ask a millennial to use “beacon” in a sentence.

I don’t blame you. This stuff is nearly unintelligible.

We don’t let obscure language hold us down. Not now, not ever9)ok, possibly soon. Let’s summarize the law in language real people use:

  1. The speed limit in a school zone is 15 MPH, applicable additionally for the 30 minutes before/after school. The speed limit in a school crossing zone is 25 MPH. Neither are in effect on days that children are not in school. What’s the difference between a school zone and a school crossing zone? About 10 MPH, it seems. As you can see in Section 5, the state assigned school zone designations to the localities. You will want to check the signage around your neighborhood school. Don’t just assume you are in a school crossing zone! Especially if you are in Clark County (see below).
  2. If the school zone in question uses signs with the flashing yellow light (speed limit beacon), when the lights are off, you may drive the normal speed.
  3. If the school speed limit is in effect, then you are not permitted to make a U-turn nor pass another car in the school (crossing too) zone.
  4. Section 8 informs us that if you violate any of the above provisions, and there is an accident, you can be charged with Reckless Driving10)NRS 484B.653. I know you were driving carefully in school zones already because we care about the children of our community, but you don’t want a Reckless Driving charge filed against you for driving 30 MPH either.
For those of you living in Clark County, in reference to my first point above, there is Clark County Code that is applicable. I will reproduce the language so you can see wrote their laws differently:
14.24.030 – Prima facie speed limit.
 
The speed of any vehicle upon a street or highway within this county not in excess of the limits specified in this section or established in this title is lawful unless proved to be in violation of this chapter. The speed of any vehicle upon a street or highway in excess of the limits specified in this section or established in this title is prima facie unlawful. The prima facie limits referred to above are as follows:
 
(a) Fifteen miles per hour:
 
(1) When passing a school building or the grounds thereof adjacent to the street or highway while children are going to or leaving such school during school hours on days on which such school is in session. Such prima facie limit also shall apply when passing any school grounds which are not separated from the street or highway by a fence, gate or any other physical barrier, while such grounds are in use by children.
How’s your Latin? It’s a dead language only to those that don’t write about the law.. Prima facie translates to “at first impression.” In law, it’s often meant to convey “on its face.” Through all the obscure language here, all the County is saying is that the speed limit is 15 MPH in school zones where there is no signage indicating otherwise. The only school crossing zones in Clark County will be indicated as such11)Drive 15 MPH unless you see a sign that says you may go 25 MPH

I wish I could explain the Latin use.

Must You Yield to a Crossing Guard?

In short, yes. Let’s go right to the text of NRS 484B.350:

      NRS 484B.350  Stop required in obedience to direction or traffic-control signal of school crossing guard; penalty; additional penalty if driver is proximate cause of collision with pedestrian or person riding bicycle.

      1.  The driver of a vehicle:

      (a) Shall stop in obedience to the direction or traffic-control signal of a school crossing guard; and

      (b) Shall not proceed until the highway is clear of all persons, including, without limitation, the school crossing guard.

      2.  A person who violates subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor.

      3.  If, while violating subsection 1, the driver of a motor vehicle is the proximate cause of a collision with a pedestrian or a person riding a bicycle, the driver is subject to the additional penalty set forth in subsection 4 of NRS 484B.653. (This is a the reckless driving statue. It includes terms for jail time.)

      4.  As used in this section, “school crossing guard” means a volunteer or paid employee of a local authority, local law enforcement agency or school district whose duties include assisting pupils to cross a highway.

      (Added to NRS by 2003, 364; A 2011, 1635) — (Substituted in revision for NRS 484.356) (emphasis added)

Now that’s what I call legislating! How refreshingly clear!

The driver “shall12)shall is not a suggestion stop” at the direction of the crossing guard.

You may not drive through the cross walk until all people, including the crossing guard, are clear of the highway. This does not mean after the group of people have walked past your car. I only emphasize this because I see people turning through walk signs all the time. Be aware of the requirements for school zones!

Below I included a two more school bus statues that you might find interesting. The first requires that state to have posted school zone signs13)relevant if you are pulled over for speeding and the second codifies that a school bus may not drive faster than 55 miles per hour14)an exception for when traveling on highways with a higher speed limit.

Have a great year of school everyone! Bless our wonderful teachers.

  NRS 484B.367  School zone or school crossing zone: Requirements for signs; placement of portable signs.

      1.  Each permanent sign which designates a school zone or school crossing zone and the speed limit in that zone must be uniform in size and color and must clearly designate the hours during which the speed limit applies.

      2.  Each portable sign designating a school zone or school crossing zone and the speed limit in the zone must be uniform in size and color. A portable sign may be placed on or beside a roadway only during those hours when pupils are arriving at and leaving regularly scheduled school sessions.

      (Added to NRS by 1985, 640; A 2001, 955; 2003, 365) — (Substituted in revision for NRS 484.3665)

      NRS 484B.360  Maximum speed of school bus.  A school bus shall not exceed:

      1.  A speed of 55 miles per hour when transporting pupils to and from school; or

      2.  The speed limit posted by a public authority for the portion of highway being traversed when transporting pupils to and from any activity which is properly a part of a school program.

      (Added to NRS by 1969, 1486; A 1973, 1297; 1977, 407; 2015, 1351) — (Substituted in revision for NRS 484.365)

If you are interested in further reading on Dillon Rule vs. Home Rule, I found this fun little ditty.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. you all speak with impeccable grammar from what I hear
2. by no means a requirement! Rick Hasen is a great writer.
3. Small footnoted tangent: Have you seen (this is rhetorical, I know you’re busy) what the legislature did to our Dillon rule common law last session? First, I’ll define the terms. Justice Dillon (of Iowa) wrote a common law doctrine in the 19th Century adopted by Nevada courts. The Dillon Rule, as it’s known, states that localities do not have the authority to legislate unless said authority is expressly granted by the state government. Last legislative session, the state government made a significant amendment. Check out Section 5 of new bill: “As a general rule on local governmental power, Dillon’s Rule serves an important function in defining the powers of county government and remains a vital component of Nevada law. However, with regard to matters of local concern, a strict interpretation and application of Dillon’s Rule unnecessarily restricts a board of county commissioners from taking appropriate actions that are necessary or proper to address matters of local concern for the effective operation of county government and thereby impedes the board from responding to and serving the needs of local citizens diligently, decisively and effectively.”(emphasis added). If you, like me, are tired of the “tyranny of the north” as I like to call it, this is a great result! Clark County brings in almost all of the state’s revenue, and in turn, should be given the authority to pass the laws necessary to improve our lovely community without folks from Elko stopping us. This was impossible under the old Dillon Rule. Hope is on the way my friends..Hopefully my friends in Clark County realize what we have here..
4. After some cursory research, this may be the first time the Dillon Rule (in about 150 years) that it has been codified by a state. Pretty interesting in terms of history of law.
5. Cite
6. Dillon!
7. Was there a contest at the legislature to come up with the most obscure term possible for school zone signs? Who even uses beacon in this context anymore?
8. Want to try something fun, ask a millennial to use “beacon” in a sentence.
9. ok, possibly soon
10. NRS 484B.653
11. Drive 15 MPH unless you see a sign that says you may go 25 MPH
12. shall is not a suggestion
13. relevant if you are pulled over for speeding
14. an exception for when traveling on highways with a higher speed limit
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