Passing a Stopped School Bus with Flashing Red Signals in California
(Vehicle Code 22454a)

California Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC says drivers cannot pass stopped school buses displaying flashing red signals.

There are five important points to know about this code section.

  • VC 22454 (a) applies to both motorists following a school bus and drivers approaching a school bus from the opposite direction on a two-lane road.
  • A driver that violates Vehicle Code 22454 (a) must pay a fine of up to $695.00.
  • A driver that passes a stopped school bus with flashing red signals will also receive one point on his California State driving record. A driver could get a negligent operator license suspension if he receives a certain number of points in a given time period (e.g., 4 points in 12 months, 6 points in 24 months or 8 points in 36 months).
  • Drivers can challenge a ticket for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals. They can do so by raising a legal defense on their behalf. But, it's best for the driver to contact an experienced traffic attorney before raising one.
  • Drivers must not ignore, or even forget about, tickets for violating Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC. If a driver ignores or forgets a traffic ticket in California, he may get charged with failure to appear, per California Vehicle Code 40508. Failure to appear, under California law, may be charged as a misdemeanor.

Our California personal injury attorneys will highlight the following in this article:

school bus stopped california legal defense
Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC – Passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals/stop signal arm is prohibited

1. Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC – Passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals/stop signal arm is prohibited

California Vehicle Code 22454 (a) prohibits a driver from passing a school bus when:

  1. The bus is stopped for the purpose of loading or unloading any school children; and,
  2. The bus displays flashing red lights and/or a stop signal arm.1

A “stop signal arm” is defined as a device that is extended outward from the side of a school bus to provide a signal to other motorists not to pass the bus because it has stopped to load or unload passengers.2

Drivers must remain stopped until the flashing red signals and/or stop signal arm are no longer displayed.3

VC 22454 (a) applies to both:

  • Motorists following a school bus; and,
  • Drivers approaching a school bus from the opposite direction on a two-lane road.4

Vehicle Code 22454 (a) does not apply to motorists traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus, if the road has two or more lanes traveling in the same direction.5

2. Penalties for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 22454 (a) are penalized with both:

  1. A fine; and,
  2. Points on the motorist's DMV driving record.

2.1 Fine

A driver that violates VC 22454 (a) will receive a ticket and he must pay a corresponding fine.

The fine for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals is up to $695.00.6

2.2 Points on the motorist's driving record

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC will receive one point on their DMV driving record.7 Points put on a driver's record are ultimately reported to that motorist's insurance carrier. This typically results in an increase in the driver's insurance rates for several years.

A problem also occurs when points on a motorist's driving record accumulate over time. If a driver in California accumulates a certain number of points within a 1-,2- or 3-year period, that driver may be declared a negligent driver. If this happens, the DMV can either suspend or revoke a person's driving privileges.

Please note, however, that either of these actions will require a California DMV hearing.

moving school bus legal defense california
One common defense for violating Vehicle Code 22454 (a) is if the school bus was not stopped

3. Defenses if a driver violates Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC

A driver that receives a ticket for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals can always fight the ticket. This means he can challenge the ticket by raising a legal defense. Please note, however, if this is done, it's best for the motorist to gain the assistance of an attorney.

3.1 Common defenses for passing a stopped school bus with flashing red signals

There are four common defenses for violating Vehicle Code 22454 (a). These are:

  1. The school bus was not stopped.
  2. The school bus did not display flashing red signals and/or a stop signal arm.
  3. The driver did not stop because of an emergency.
  4. The officer made a mistake and falsely accused the driver.

Drivers must take legal defenses seriously. This means if they assert one on their behalf, it's always a good idea to have support for it. The best support lies in witnesses and photographs.

3.2 Get help from an attorney

Drivers in California can represent themselves when challenging traffic tickets. It's best for the drivers, though, to consult with an attorney when trying to beat a ticket.

There are three main reasons why this is true. These are:

  1. Prosecutors most often like to give better deals to drivers with lawyers.
  2. Defense attorneys know how to get charge reductions and dismissals.
  3. If a driver has a lawyer, the driver does not have to go to court. The motorist's lawyer can go on his behalf.
empty classroom traffic school legal defense california
Drivers that violate VC 22454 (a) do not have to go to traffic school.

4. Violation of Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC and traffic school

Drivers that violate VC 22454 (a) do not have to go to traffic school.

But, drivers that do violate VC 22454 (a) can choose to go to traffic school if:

  1. The driver has a valid driver's license;
  2. The offense occurred while the driver was driving a noncommercial vehicle; and,
  3. The ticket is for an infraction that is a moving violation.

Drivers that attend traffic school must still pay the fine for any ticket they receive.8 However, drivers typically do not get any points on their driving record if they complete the school.9

5. Passing a school bus with flashing red signals and criminal charges

Criminal charges do not get filed if a person violates Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC. This is because it's not a crime in California if a driver passes a stopped school bus with flashing red signals.

Violations of VC 22454 (a) are infractions under California law. Violators are not subject to incarceration or any other criminal penalties

6. Ignoring a ticket for violating Vehicle Code 22454 (a)

Two things happen if a driver ignores a ticket for passing a school bus with flashing red signals. These are:

  1. The driver breaks a new law, California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, for the failure to appear in court on a traffic citation; and,
  2. The driver may receive penalties for violating VC 40508.

6.1 Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC

When a driver receives a traffic ticket in California, he is obligated to sign a written promise to appear in court. The driver promises to appear in court at a certain time and place (this is if he does not have an attorney – please see 3.2 above).

If the driver willfully fails to appear as promised, he violates Vehicle Code 40508 VC.10 The driver willfully fails to appear when he is willingly a no-show. It is not a defense if the driver did not intend to break the law.11

It also does not matter whether the offending driver is guilty or innocent of the underlying traffic citation.12 He violates Vehicle Code 40508 just by breaking a promise to:

  • Appear in court,
  • Appear to pay bail,
  • Pay bail in installments,
  • Pay a fine within the time authorized, or
  • Comply with any condition of the court.13

6.2 Penalties for violating VC 40508

Violation of Vehicle Code 40508 VC is a misdemeanor. The penalties are:

  • Up to six months in county jail, and/or
  • A fine of up to $1,000.14
car accident legal defense california
A driver that passes a school bus with flashing red signals may cause an injury or accident.

7. Effect of violating VC 22454 (a) on a personal injury lawsuit?

A driver that passes a school bus with flashing red signals may cause an injury or accident. If so, an injured party may decide to file a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, and the driver may be found "negligent."

California law defines "negligence" as the failure to use reasonable care to prevent harm to oneself or to others. In the context of auto accidents and personal injuries, negligent drivers are at fault for the accidents and injuries. Further, they must pay for any damages caused.

Proving negligence in a personal injury case can sometimes be difficult. In California though, a driver is considered "negligent per se" if he violates a statute.

Negligence “per se” is a legal theory in which negligence is presumed based upon a driver's violation of a statute or ordinance

This means a driver would be negligent per se if he caused injuries for passing a school bus with flashing red signals because he would be in violation of VC 22454 (a).

Please note, however, that even if a driver is negligent per se, the driver may still be able to recover for any damages he incurs. This is because of California's comparative fault laws.

8. Laws related to Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC

There are three laws related to VC 22454 (a). These are:

  1. California's laws on unsafe passing;
  2. California's law on stopping at stop signs; and,
  3. California's failure to yield to pedestrians law.

8.1 California's laws on unsafe passing

California Vehicle Code sections 21750-21759 provide a series of laws on overtaking and passing other vehicles.

In short:

  • Vehicle Code 21750 VC requires motorists to pass on the left.
  • Vehicle Code 21751 VC mandates that drivers pass to the left of center only when there is sufficient clearance.
  • Vehicle Code 21752 VC prohibits drivers from overtaking and passing on the left in specific circumstances.
  • Vehicle Code 21753 VC requires motorists that are getting passed to yield to the passing vehicle.
  • Vehicle Code 21754 VC allows drivers to overtake and pass on the right in only specific situations.
  • Vehicle Code 21755 VC provides further restrictions on right side passing.
  • Vehicle Code 21756 VC limits when drivers may pas busses and streetcars.
  • Vehicle Code 21757 VC provides further limitations with buses and streetcars and prohibits left side passing in specific situations.
  • Vehicle Code 21758 VC sets forth safety rules when motorists pass slow moving vehicles traveling on grades.
  • Vehicle Code 21759 VC requires all drivers to use caution when passing animals.

Drivers that violate California Vehicle Code Sections 21750-21759 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.18

8.2 California's law on stopping at stop signs

Drivers in California cannot run stop signs, pursuant to Vehicle Code 22450 VC.

This means that if a driver in California enters an intersection with a stop sign, he must stop.15 And, he must stop at the first of the followings:

  • A marked line
  • A crosswalk
  • The approaching street16

Complete stops are required under VC 22450. Drivers cannot obey the law by making rolling stops. A rolling stop is when a vehicle is still in motion, even at the slightest of speeds.

The penalties for running a stop sign include:

  1. A traffic ticket and an approximate fine of $238; and,
  2. One point on the driver's DMV driving record.

8.3 California's failure to yield to pedestrians law

California law states that drivers must yield to pedestrians crossing a roadway, per Vehicle Code 21950. For failure to yield to another vehicle cases, please see our page on Vehicle Code 21800 21801 21802 21803 and 21804 failure to yield to other motorists in California

Under VC 21950 (a):

The driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within any marked crosswalk or within any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection, except as otherwise provided in this chapter.17

VC 21950 (c) places additional responsibilities on motorists in that it requires drivers to exercise due care when approaching pedestrians.

That section states:

The driver of a vehicle approaching a pedestrian within any marked or unmarked crosswalk shall exercise all due care and shall reduce the speed of the vehicle or take any other action relating to the operation of the vehicle as necessary to safeguard the safety of the pedestrian.18

Drivers that violate Vehicle Code 21950 VC will receive:

  1. A fine of $238; and,
  2. One point assessed to the driver's DMV driving record.

Were you accused of passing a school bus with flashing red signals in California? Call us for help…

california passing stopped school bus legal defense
Call us for help

If you or someone you know has been cited for violating VC 22454 (a), or has been injured in an accident in California, we invite you to contact us for a free consultation. We can be reached 24/7 at 855-LawFirm.

Cited in Nevada? See our article on passing a stopped school bus in Nevada (NRS 484B.353).

  1. California Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC.

  2. California Vehicle Code 25257 (b)(4) VC.

  3. California Vehicle Code 22454 (a) VC.

  4. See same.

  5. California Vehicle Code 22454 (b)(1) and (b)(2) VC.

  6. See DMV.org.

  7. See same.

  8. See California Courts website.

  9. See same.

  10. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC.

  11. CALCRIM 2240, endnote 1: Someone commits an act willfully when he or she does it willingly or on purpose. It is not required that he or she intend to break the law, hurt someone else, or gain any advantage.

  12. See same.

  13. California Vehicle Code 40508 VC, endnote 1.

  14. California Penal Code 19 PC. Except in cases where a different punishment is prescribed by any law of this state, every offense declared to be a misdemeanor is punishable by imprisonment in the county jail not exceeding six months, or by fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by both.

  15. California Vehicle Code 22450 VC.

  16. See same.

  17. California Vehicle Code 21950(a) VC.

  18. California Vehicle Code 21950 (c) VC.

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