Why do school buses stop at RR crossings?

I know that it is for safety reasons in the event that a train might be coming. And that it is legislated that they must do so. But when did it begin and why? My assumption is that it is because of some bus accident, if so does anyone know which one?

Just writing from the point of view of safety, here – all vehicles should at least stop at “passive” railroad crossings without electronic control.

WAG - it looks like the school bus safety question is being looked at state-by-state, usually after especially bad bus/train collisions.

What horrifies me is - a lot of this legislatin’ seems recent. as in within the last three years. :eek:

Unless the rail crossing is specifically marked as “Exempt”, busses (and I think trucks too) are required by federal law to stop at the crossing. I some states, they do allow any exempt crossings. The exempt status is used for abandoned lines and the likes. I know of three sites, one where there are trees growing between the rails, one where there are rails in the road, but not on either side of the crossing and one where there are rails up to the road, but none in the road itself. All three have rail crossing signs and busses must stop at all three.

Don’t you remember Schoolhouse Rock? In the song ‘I’m Just a Bill’, the Bill is ‘All schoolbuses must stop at railroad crossings.’ THAT’S where the law came from.:smiley:

I remember a feature here on British TV recently about an accident to a scool bus on a RR crossing in the US.The actual crossing was near some cross-roads with traffic signals.Because of problems with the signals the bus was stranded across the rail lines behind a line of traffic.A train ran into the bus and several children were killed. Could it be that ,because of this, buses are now requird to stop to ensure than can safely clear the crossing.
We had a similar accident here in the UK in the 70’s when a very large,very slow low-loader,carrying a huge electricity transformer,was stranded across the lines.This time the train came off worse.Because of this all such loads now have to stop at the crossing and use the on-site phone for clearance before going ahead.

Eh, David, that’s a good guess but the rule was in place long ago. Here’s a link to the story you’re talking about, though.

In this one, I believe they found the bus driver wasn’t at fault. It was a combination of circumstances–the crossing and its feeder traffic flow was poorly designed, the stoplight on the other side of the crossing was a “short light”, the bus was noisy (stereo speakers playing radio), and it was a substitute driver who didn’t know that the tail of your bus would hang out over the crossing if you didn’t make the light and had to sit there and wait.

You know, when they stop at the crossings, they aren’t just “stopping” for the heck of it, or to annoy the folks stuck behind them–the bus driver is actually opening the bus door and listening for trains. Speaking as someone who rode a school bus back in the 1960s, I can assure you that stopping at RR crossings to listen is nothing new–they were doing it back then. And the bus drivers had just as much trouble getting kids to shut up so they could hear as they do now.

A few months ago, a school bus driver in Chicago stopped to listen at a RR crossing, and thereby saved everybody in his bus from probably dying. (I can’t get the Tribune link to make; :mad: you can find the whole story cached on Google by putting in “Jeff Coen Chauncey Lester”.)

So. Don’t try to tell me that’s not a good rule.

The gates had been malfunctioning due to melting ice in the circuitry, “false triggering”, so the train company readjusted them so as not to come down until a train was right there at the tracks. And then they instructed the train engineers to “inch slowly” past the crossing, but evidently at least one of them didn’t get the message.

Kudos to the bus driver for following instructions and stopping to listen at the crossing.

I agree, the rules have been in place for a number of years, not just recently. I remember it being in place in the early '70s in Colorado.

My father grew up in Minnesota (1950’s), and he said that the bus driver actually had to send a kid :eek: out to look up and down the tracks before the bus could cross. He was invariably that kid because he was the last kid the bus picked up on the route before the tracks.

This law must have been repealed at some point, since I went to high school in Minnesota (1990’s), and they never sent any kid out there (the bus did stop, though.) In Montana (1980’s), not only did the bus stop, but the driver opened the door to look out/listen. I doubt that this is a recent law anywhere, but I may be wrong.

You might be thinking that my father was pulling my leg or something, but I’m not so sure. I thought he was making up the whole “margarine used to be illegal in MN and people smuggled it in from Iowa” thing for many, many years–imagine my surprise when that turned out to be true!


Yes, but why would you? Who would WANT margarine instead of butter? Especially years ago, when margarine was crap.

My dad drives school busses, But they’re not always used during school. During the summer and vacations, he drives them about once or twice a week to various places. For instance, once there was some kind of Microsoft conference that he took people to.

Whenever he is driving his bus for other than school busses, he has to change the signs on the front and back. Depending on the model of bus, he either flips the sign over so it says “charter” instead of “school bus”, or he covers where it says “school bus”

Anyways, I asked him why he had to do that, and he said that School busses have certain rules that Charter busses do not, like stopping in RR tracks.

So, over here, not **all[/a] busses have to stop for tracks, just school busses.

Also, a while back, there was a “stop, look, live” campaign on TV and Radio and stuff. Beats me why they don’t make it a law so that every vehicle has to stop on tracks without a signal, and not just school busses.

My closest friend from my college days lives in Fox River Grove. I’ve visited him there several times, and was there a few months after the crash took place. I’ve seen the crossing in question.

The general feeling around the town – although they apparently took pains to avoid adding to the bus driver’s horror by charging her or making anything more of the tragedy – is that there was no way she could have NOT known that a train was coming, even though I believe she at least initially claimed she hadn’t seen it.

There is a perfectly straight track at that crossing and a very clear line of sight, and the train was traveling at a very high rate of speed. She was a substitute driver, and apparently a very inexperienced one to have not seen the potential for disaster she courted by crossing the tracks under these circumstances.

IMHO, stopping a bus right before the tracks on gated crossings seem more dangerous then driving through. I would think that there is more chance to stall out at idle and roll to a stop across the tracks. In non-controlled crossings, I’d keep the stops

Agreed. Stopping on the tracks is patently idiotic. It may have made sense years ago when trains moved through cities at comparitively slow speeds, but with the high-speed trains these days, it’s a recipe for disaster. If buses should stop, it should be just before the tracks, perhaps within a designated area. Since the track path represents the highest danger for death/injury, getting over them ASAP seems the smartest idea–not stopping of them and waiting a few seconds and thus, exposing yourself further. Were a bus to stall and a train be coming, it would take too long to evacuate all the kids out in time.