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Understanding New Mexico’s School Bus Laws

Legal Team

New Mexico has several laws to ensure the safety of schoolchildren and promote responsible driving behavior around school buses. Understanding these laws is crucial for all drivers. If you were involved in an accident with a school bus, our Albuquerque bus accident attorneys can hold negligent parties accountable. 

Stopping for School Buses

One of the most critical laws in New Mexico is the requirement for drivers to stop for school buses that are loading or unloading children. Under NMSA 1978, Section 66-7-347, all drivers must stop for school buses when they are loading or unloading children. When a school bus displays flashing red lights and extends its stop arm, vehicles in both directions must come to a complete stop.

  • Exceptions: On divided highways where there is a physical barrier or median, only the traffic following the bus must stop. Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction are not required to stop but should exercise increased caution.

Penalties for Violations

Violating the stop-for-school-bus law carries significant penalties:

  • First Offense: A fine of up to $300 and potential points added to the driver’s license.
  • Subsequent Offenses: Increased fines and points, with potential license suspension for habitual offenders.
  • Accidents Involving Injury: Violations resulting in injury to a child can lead to more severe penalties, including higher fines, criminal charges, and longer license suspensions.

Speed Limits in School Zones

School zones often have reduced speed limits during specific hours. Adhering to these limits is crucial for the safety of children who may be walking or crossing streets. NMSA 1978, Section 66-7-301 states that during school hours or when children are present, drivers must adhere to reduced speed limits, typically ranging from 15 to 25 mph, depending on the specific zone.

Speed limits are strictly enforced with additional fines for violations. Automated speed enforcement devices and law enforcement patrols are also commonly used to monitor compliance.

Safe Loading and Unloading Procedures

Another law, NMSA 1978, Section 66-7-348, outlines the procedures for safe loading and unloading of schoolchildren. It requires school bus drivers to use flashing red lights and stop arms to signal that children are getting on or off the bus. Bus drivers must also ensure that children cross the street safely, preferably in front of the bus where the driver can see them.

School Bus Driver Requirements

School bus drivers in New Mexico must meet specific requirements to ensure the safety of their passengers. Under NMSA 1978, Section 66-5-54, those include:

  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL): School bus drivers must possess a valid CDL with a passenger (P) and school bus (S) endorsement.
  • Background Checks: Drivers must pass comprehensive background checks, including criminal history and driving record evaluations.
  • Training: Drivers are required to complete specific training programs that cover safe driving practices, student management, emergency procedures, and first aid.

Reporting and Compliance

NMSA 1978, Section 66-5-304 mandates that any violation by another driver that involves school buses, including failing to stop for a bus or speeding in a school zone, must be reported to the New Mexico Motor Vehicle Division (MVD). Drivers found in violation may face additional administrative actions, such as license points or suspension.

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