(ThompsonLawSTL) It’s that time of year beloved by parents and dreaded by kids – back-to-school time! With more buses on the road, children waiting at stops, and people rushing to get the kids dropped off at school before hurrying to work, it’s a good time to review Missouri rules about bus safety.
First, the buses themselves. Missouri actually has extensive rules concerning minimum standards for school buses. The pdf for the most recent edition from 2020 is seventy-seven pages! (https://dese.mo.gov/media/pdf/2020-minimum-standards-school-buses). The Missouri standards were based on both the 2015 National Conference on School Transportation and the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards created by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The specifications regulate nearly every portion of the bus, down to the minimum aisle width permitted. The characteristic off-yellow orangish color that buses are painted is “National School Bus Yellow.”
Next, the driver for the bus. Like many states throughout the country, Missouri has been impacted by a school bus driver shortage, which has resulted in school districts canceling routes, limiting stops, and increasing the distance needed to walk to school, among other changes. (https://www.kmov.com/2022/08/15/bus-driver-shortage-prompts-slps-suspend-service-8-schools/) (https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/education/school-bus-driver-shortage-means-no-rides-for-thousands-of-st-louis-students/article_d4ad951d-2bc2-56b8-874f-ea1df7236727.html)
Missouri has a specific license endorsement required to drive a school bus – “Class S.” Missouri Statute 302.272 governs license administration for school bus licenses. (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=302.272#:~:text=The%20director%20of%20revenue%2C%20to,a%20history%20of%20moving%20vehicle) Section 302.272.2 states:
The director of revenue, to the best of the director’s knowledge, shall not issue or renew a school bus endorsement to any applicant whose driving record shows that such applicant’s privilege to operate a motor vehicle has been suspended, revoked, or disqualified or whose driving record shows a history of moving vehicle violations.
Section 302.272.3 indicates the Director of the Department of Revenue “may adopt rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this section,” meaning that the Director can issue rules that more specifically address the general matters described in the statute. The Director of the Department of Revenue has issued such rules under 12 CSR 10-24.160. (https://www.sos.mo.gov/CMSImages/AdRules/csr/current/12csr/12c10-24.pdf). The rules set out what constitutes a “history of moving vehicle violations” and other various criteria.
Missouri Statute 304.050 (https://revisor.mo.gov/main/OneSection.aspx?section=304.050#:~:text=Every%20bus%20used%20for%20the,than%20eight%20inches%20in%20height.) governs a number of issues with respect to school bus safety and requires drivers of other vehicles to stop when a bus is loading or unloading students, as indicated by the stop signal that extends when the bus’s door is open. The statute also requires the use of a “safety arm” on the front of buses to require children to pass in front of the bus far enough away from the windshield that a driver does not lose sight of them. The statute also does not permit a driver to drop off children along a four-lane highway if the children have to cross more than two lanes of traffic after being dropped off.
More generally, Missouri has long held that a bus driver must allow a passenger to reach a position of reasonable safety when dropping them off. See, e.g., Mayor v. St. Louis Public Service Co., 269 S.W.2d 101 (Mo. 1954). On a case-by-case basis, a jury will determine what constitutes “reasonable safety” given a certain set of facts, and that will often depend on the individual parties involved, as well as the students’ ages. Schools are supposed to coach students on bus safety, including the need to look both ways and make sure to make eye contact with the driver before crossing in front of a bus. Schools may not follow these rules, however, or they may only be emphasized once a year or once a semester. As a parent, talk with your children about bus safety and work with them to make sure they pay attention to their own safety. If you or your children have been injured by a bus or have concerns about how your school handles bus safety, please give me a call for a free initial consultation.