School buses are a safe way to travel – that is, as long as each and every one of us respects the rules. Here’s what all drivers need to know.

The abc of school zones: five true-or-false questions to test your knowledge

1. It is 10 times safer to ride in a school bus than a car.
TRUE. The degree of protection afforded by school transportation is at least ten times that offered by a passenger car fitted with child car seats. Even though a school bus is not equipped with seat belts, it’s highly visible and it has a unique compartmentalization system that protects children in the event of an accident.

2. When facing a school bus with its red lights flashing, a motorist must bring his vehicle to a complete stop.
TRUE. But there’s an important exception: You’re not required to stop when passing a school bus travelling on a roadway separated by a median. On the other hand, at intersections where schoolchildren are likely to cross, you must stop – even if there’s a median.

3. A motorist passing a school bus with activated flashing red lights will get a warning at the first offence.
FALSE. The motorist will be liable to a fine of $200 to $300 and nine demerit points on his driving record, not to mention endangering schoolchildren.

4. It’s strictly forbidden to pass a school bus at any time.
FALSE. In a zone where passing is allowed, a motorist can overtake a school bus whose red lights are off and its stop sign deactivated.

5. When stopping behind or in front of a school bus, a motorist must allow a space equal to the width of two people standing side by side.
FALSE. Article 460 of the Highway Safety Code stipulates that the minimum distance to respect is five metres, whether in front of or behind the school bus. That’s the length of a minivan.

As you can tell, school-bus travel is very safe, but it demands that each and every one of us play our part. We’re talking about driver behaviour, the presence of patrollers and road signs, vigilant parents who take the trouble to remind their children of the importance of obeying safety rules.

  • School-bus drivers’ responsibilities
    They must signal in advance their intention to stop, either by activating the vehicle’s four flashing amber warning lights or the hazard lights before activating its red lights. This mandatory pre-signal is designed to ensure that oncoming motorists will slow down and that those following the bus do not brake or accelerate abruptly.
  • Motorists’ responsibilities
    Quebec motorists must be prepared to stop when a school bus’s amber warning lights or hazard lights are flashing. They must never attempt to overtake or drive past a school bus under any circumstances when its red lights are flashing or if its stop sign is in plain view.
  • Obeying speed limits: an absolute must
    According to the Quebec Highway Safety Code, school-zone speed limits are usually set at 30 km/h and cannot exceed 50 km/h. If there’s no visible speed-limit sign, motorists must respect the legal maximum. More and more frequently, you’ll find interactive signage (illuminated panels) in these zones in addition to normal road signs. These panels clearly display the speed that motorists must respect when entering a school zone.
  • Crossing guards of all ages!
    Adult crossing guards are specifically assigned to oversee children’s safety and it’s vital that they have our respect. Whether standing on duty at busy intersections and dangerous crossings or supervising school-bus traffic, crossing guards are in the vanguard. And since the idea of road safety begins in childhood, CAA-Quebec is happy to have played its part – for more than 85 years and counting – by offering young Quebecers the opportunity to become a vital part of its school-safety brigade. It’s a unique program to teach our young people about responsibility and the importance of road safety.
  • Road signs

School zones are risk areas, so be vigilant! Respect signage panels and speed limits.

Warning of a school zone or crosswalk for schoolchildren

Beginning of a school zone

This sign is accompanied by one stating the time of day during which a speed limit lower than the one applicable elsewhere on the roadway is in effect in the school zone.

Warning of a school bus stop ahead

This sign alerts motorists to the possible presence of a school bus that has stopped to let passengers embark or disembark.

  • Parents’ responsibilities

Riding in a school bus can involve risks if passengers fail to adopt appropriate safety behaviour. So be sure to remind your children regularly of what safety rules to obey when getting on the bus, sitting inside, and while getting off.
To find out the precise safety rules and for more information, order the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec publications* covering this topic.

*These publications are available in all CAA-Québec vehicle registration centres.



  • If your children go to school on their own (walking, biking, public transportation), make sure you go with them. In this way, you’ll get to know if there are risky areas and can warn your children about them so they can be vigilant.
  • When accompanying your children, plan to leave home earlier. In this way, you can avoid the stress of being late and make fewer errors.
  • Remember that children imitate their parents: Show a good example by respecting the Highway Safety Code.

To know more about road sharing, check out the News rubric on

Safe travelling!