Can I Get Ticketed By an Off-Duty Police Officer?

We are thankful for our law enforcement personnel who sacrifice their lives every day to protect our rights and our safety. As citizens, we expect police officers to be honest, respectful, and un-biased figures of society, so that we may trust them to carry out their duties responsibly.

But sometimes, a cop can exhibit overconfidence and carry out personal agendas that are not necessarily a positive contribution to our communities. One common example of this involves off-duty cops and unmarked police vehicles. Continue reading to learn about your rights as a citizen in the case that you are pulled over by an off-duty police officer in an unmarked vehicle.

Off-Duty and Unmarked

Have ever been pulled over by an unmarked police vehicle? They appear to look like any other normal vehicle on the road, and then all of a sudden, you see their flashing lights and sirens in your rearview mirror. Unmarked police cars are purposeful and used in several types of investigations and routine applications. So if you are pulled over in one, by a cop that is actually on-duty, then you are being legally pulled over. However, if you were pulled over by an off-duty police officer in an unmarked vehicle and out of uniform, the situation changes.

According to Indiana Code § 9-30-2-2:

A law enforcement officer that is off the clock and driving in an unmarked vehicle does not have the authority to pull someone over and issue them a citation or ticket.

Accordingly, any evidence gathered by the police officer during an unauthorized stop is suppressible, and carries no weight in a court of law whatsoever. Many drivers have had their citations and tickets revoked under these circumstances, after an attorney successfully presented their argument regarding this Indiana Code.

How to Challenge an Illegal Ticket

It is important to understand the limits of a cop’s authority, and when and where they have jurisdiction. This way, you can know whether or not a ticket is being issued legally. If this has ever happened to you, you might want to consider challenging it, or expunging the violation altogether. Talk to a record expungement lawyer to see if you qualify.

Remember, an off-duty officer in an unmarked vehicle has just as much right to pull you over as you have the right to pull over the car in front of you. So if a cop on his way home from work wants to pull you over, keep this in mind. But of course, never keep driving. It is best to just stop and talk to the police officer. Do not argue, accept the ticket, and then immediately call a defense lawyer when you get home.

Things to Know About Domestic Violence Laws in the US

In every household there comes a time that an intense verbal argument occurs for a number of reasons: jealousy, financial problems, sibling rivalry, etc. However, sometimes people may physically assault a family member because they cannot control their anger, want to assert control or may have been verbally provoked. In so doing, the aggressor has committed Domestic Violence.

Whenever such serious matters occur, you may think of seeking outside help either by calling the police or by consulting an attorney. It is preferable to discuss the issue with an experienced legal professional first, since you may have trouble handling the legal ramifications that may ensue following the crime’s disclosure.

The aim of this article is to provide an overview of the most important legal aspects of Domestic Abuse, in a simplified and accessible way and to provide a starting point for more specialized study.

1. What is Domestic Violence?

Any person who physically abused a family or household member has committed the crime of Domestic Violence. Domestic assault is a distinctive and more serious case than Assault and Battery -which involves strangers- and is treated accordingly.

2. Domestic assault can be difficult to prove.

The easiest way to identify an abused victim is by looking for signs of assault on the body (scratches, bruises, etc.). In the absence of such evidence, eye witness’s testimonies are valuable, but are not always available. What adds complexity when evidence is inconclusive, is that it can be hard to prove the crime or ascertain who the instigator was (both parties can claim to have been abused or acting in self-defense and the aggressor could deny the charge).

3. The severity of the assault, the victim and the aggressor’s medical history and potential addictions are taken into account for the sentence.

Simply put, an aggressor who slapped his spouse will be punished more leniently, than one who punched and kicked her. If a child was abused the law is more severe. A person with addictions (a drug-user or an alcoholic), or mental disorders may also be required to undertake therapy.

4. If domestic abuse is reported, it can severely disrupt family relations.

Domestic assault is a serious criminal charge, which means that if the authorities find out about the crime, they are obligated to take legal action, whether the victim intents to or not. The state laws of Virginia dictate that the authorities can issue a no-contact (protective) order, effectively prohibiting any form of communication between the aggressor, the victim and the rest of the family.

5. First time offenders can have their case dismissed or may be judged more leniently.

The guilty party can have their sentence dismissed, if they have never committed a crime before. It is also possible that the state offers a plea bargain to the accused. If the abuser admits guilt before the case goes to court, the sentence can be more lenient.

6. The alleged abuser’s and the accuser’s personality and habits play an important role in court.

A person with a toxic and abusive personality, will have a harder time convincing the court about his innocence. On the other hand, the accuser may have an ulterior motive or may be a habitual liar. All of the above aspects come into play when the case is tried.

7. It’s advisable for both parties to avoid contact after the crime has been reported.

Whether you are the accuser or the perpetrator it is preferable to refrain from communicating between each other, as any form of contact could have a detrimental effect to your case, especially if a protective order is in effect.

Conclusion

Domestic Violence can be a complex and challenging crime to handle. Whether you decide to press charges against an abuser, or think you have been wrongfully accused, you should always consult with an experienced criminal law attorney.

Common Bail Bond Questions and Answers

There is a lot to know about bail and bail bonds. Many people are very unfamiliar with the difference between the two, and the details of the industry and the services they offer. Fortunately, you have resources like these to help you understand what bail bonds are, what a bail bondsman does, and how to obtain bail in your time of need. In this article, we will cover plenty of frequently asked questions regarding the bail bonds industry, arrest warrants, getting out of jail, and more. Continue reading to learn about all of these topics, and more, when it comes to the indemnity industry.

What is Bail? What are Bail Bonds?

Bail bonds are formal documents that allow a release from jail for a person being detained on suspected charges or crimes. Bail is the amount of money or surety set by the courts. These amounts differ for everyone; depending on the crime, a person’s criminal history, and more. Once bail is set, a bail bond can be obtained so that a person can be temporarily released from jail to await their following court hearing at home.

What is a Bail Bondsman? How Much is a Bail Bond?

A bail bondsman, or bail agent, is the individual who operates a service that provides bail bonds for people who need to turn themselves into authorities, or need a release from jail. They operate by lending, or covering, the bail amount for those who cannot afford the entire fee upfront, in exchange for a non-refundable fee. Bail can be set as low as a few hundred dollars for minor infractions, and some in the high-thousands.

To get out of jail, a person has the option to pay this money as a deposit to the court, and then receives this money back when they show for their scheduled court hearing. The issue is that not everyone has this type of cash on hand, and cannot afford to pay the courts these amounts to get out of jail. This is where a bail bond agency comes in handy. They will pay the entire bail amount for you, in exchange for a fee.

These fees are regulated by the state, so bail bondsmen can only charge between 10-15% of the person’s total bail amount. So if a person’s bail is $5,000, they would pay a bail agency $500-$750 for bail. They do not get this money back. They are also obligated to sign a contractual agreement promising their return to court. If a defendant obtains a bail bond, then skips their court date, the bail bondsman does not get that money back. This is when they come for you.

Are Bail Bondsmen Bounty Hunters?

Bounty hunting is not a real vocation, and bail bondsmen are nothing of the sort. If a person skips bail, the bail bondsmen will simply track them down with the information they have, and give police a heads up on the whereabouts of a fugitive. They do this in order to get their bond money back. They will send police to your home, office, work, daycare, gym, friend’s house, and any other place they think you may be. Before they come looking for the fugitive, they will contact the person who signed for the bail contract, and pursue recompense from them. Since most individuals do not wish for their loved ones to get stuck paying thousands of dollars, most people choose to show up for court. An arrest warrant is issued for anyone who skips a court date, so police can arrest them anywhere at any time; such as routine traffic stops, the BMV, the post office, border crossing, and more.

First Offense DUI

There are strict penalties for a First Offense DUI conviction. If you are arrested for a First Offense DUI in Michigan, here are some of the penalties you are facing upon conviction.

  • Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) $100 to $500 fine:
  • Up to 360 hours of community service.
  • Up to 93 days in jail.
  • Possible vehicle immobilization.
  • Driver license suspension for 30 days, followed by restrictions for 150 days.
  • Six points added to driver record.
  • Possible ignition interlock.
  • $1,000 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years for OWI.
  • $500 Driver Responsibility Fee for two consecutive years for OWPD.

Not only is an arrest for a First Offense DUI embarrassing, it can cost your job, thousands of dollars in legal fees leaving you and even fear about what is what your future holds.

You need to find a good lawyer to help you fight your first offense DUI charge. You need to find a lawyer that is dedicated to providing their client with an aggressive drunk driving defense no matter the complexity of your OWI/DUI case. Most good lawyers offer a free OWI/DUI case evaluation to help you better understand the complexity and uniqueness of your case. A good drunk driving defense strategy aims for the absolute best results.
While the law is the same throughout Michigan, local courts often employ differing procedures in how they handle such cases, and it is important to have an attorney representing you who is familiar with these differences and able to use them to your advantage.
Being stopped and put under arrest for drunk driving is an embarrassing event. The penalties are extreme and are becoming tougher by the year. If you are arrested for DUI, OWI or impaired driving, you probably have many questions such as: am I going to jail? Will I lose my driver’s license? Can I take my case to trial and win? Again, a good Criminal Defense Lawyer can help you figure out these issues with you. Do not face these kinds of charges alone.

Depending on the facts and circumstances of your case and your previous record, a drunk driving conviction can result in jail time, significant fines and costs, community service, work crew, loss of your driving privileges and probation.

I am amazed at how many times I see people think they can handle a first offense dui offense by themselves. This is a grave mistake. Always have a lawyer by your side when you are facing a dui charge.

10 Criminal Law Tips Everyone Needs to Know

Whether you are a past offender, currently facing criminal charges, or have a clean record, these criminal law tips are facts that everyone needs to know. Not only can having this knowledge protect you and your loved ones in various situations, it can help you navigate current and future legal issues that are in the works. Continue reading to learn 10 criminal law facts and advice, and be sure to pass this information onto your friends, co-workers, and loved ones.

Important Criminal Defense Tips

1. If you are pulled over and an officer suspects you have been drinking, you have the right to refuse a sobriety test. But there is a serious catch. Keep in mind that this also means law enforcement will arrest you on the spot, and your drivers’ license will be automatically suspended for 12 months. This is because most states, such as Indiana, are “implied consent” states. This means if you have a drivers’ license, then you automatically consent to BAC testing anytime.

2. If law enforcement shows up at your house or office requesting to conduct a search of the premises, you have the right to refuse. If they have a search warrant, you do not have this right and you must cooperate with them completely. If they do not have a search warrant, close the door and immediately contact a criminal defense lawyer.

3. If you are confronted by law enforcement, always be courteous and cooperative. Having an attitude, being disrespectful, and refusing to cooperate will only get you in more trouble. If you want the best experience possible with police, whether you end up getting arrested or not, be sure you are polite, well-spoken, and cooperative. They have all the power at the moment, and you must remember that you do not have control over the situation, so it is best to just give in and relinquish all the control. This will make your time with police and jail (if it gets to that) a lot easier for you.

4. If you are already on probation or parole for a previous offense, and you commit another crime, you will face additional legal sentences and penalties on top of the one you are currently serving. Many people are unaware how serious of an offense it is to violate probation or parole, especially by committing another crime. You can most certainly expect to be sentenced to jail time.

5. A minor is a person over the age of 10 and under the age of 18. However, minors can be charged as an adult in certain cases. This usually happens if the crime is very serious or if the minor is close to turning 18 years old. Being tried as an adult means that a minor faces adult penalties.

6. If you are a past offender, and it has been many years since your last offense, you may qualify to have your criminal record sealed from public access. This means that employers, banks, landlords, and the general public cannot look up a particular criminal charge or arrest. You must have a criminal defense lawyer help you file for record sealing, as the process is highly complex and demanding.

7. To get a complete copy of your criminal record, you must compile all records in every county and state they exist. That is because local, state, and federal records are all different. You will have to contact the clerk’s office or local authorities to get the records you need. You can also have your criminal defense lawyer help you with this.

8. Never waive your right to an attorney. Furthermore, never attempt to represent yourself in court. If you want to avoid the maximum penalties for your criminal charges, you need to have an experienced lawyer working on your defense. They are the only ones who have the knowledge and resources to protect your rights and preserve your freedoms.

9. You have to be very careful what you post to your social media accounts. You must understand that your social media activity can be used against you in a court of law, even traffic court, divorce court, and other civil courts. Law enforcement and government organizations have technology that allows them to identify IP addresses, locations, coordinates, times, dates, and more. If you post from a coffee shop on the corner of 9th and Main, they can find out. Nothing is private on your social media, and all activity is permanently logged forever.

10. The best way to avoid getting in trouble with the law is to surround yourself with positive and healthy people, and to partake in healthy activities. Furthermore, educating yourself on certain particulars of the law can help you understand your rights and obligations as a U.S. citizen. If you ever have questions about the law, contact a trusted criminal defense lawyer for professional advice and answers.

Is the Cost of Bail Higher for Felony Charges?

Discovering that your loved one has been arrested is not an enjoyable experience. No one wants to get this phone call; especially because your first thought is likely about the expense it will cost you. Finding out that your loved one was arrested on serious felony charges is even more disturbing, and can cause your mind to go into a whirlwind of questions and concerns. As history shows, many people want to know if a felony charge will increase the cost of a bail bond. The answer to this question, however, is not cut and dry. Continue reading to learn how the cost of bail is calculated, and whether or not the severity of the crime affects the total price of bail.

Cost of Bail

Bonds are set by judges who consider various factors before deciding on an amount. These factors include, but are not limited to, the defendant’s criminal history, the severity of their crime, and whether or not they are a flight risk. So in short, “yes”; the cost of bail is absolutely affected by the severity of criminal charges. This is for many reasons.

Bail Schedules

Most states have bail schedules with predetermined bond amounts for certain categories of crimes. For instance, shoplifting might come with an automatic bail schedule of $1000, while domestic violence might have a $10,000 bond or more. The more serious the crime, the higher the bond amount set by the judge. If a charge is a violent one, such as assault, battery, domestic disturbances, and child abuse, you can guarantee that the bond will be set high. Furthermore, all preset bond amounts, however, can be increased upon the judge’s discretion depending on the previously discussed factors. But not to worry, our U.S. Constitution protects us from excessive bond amounts. So they will be fair.

Bail Bondsmen

Unless you want to pay the jail or courts the full bond amount in cash or property, you will need to hire a bail bondsman. They charge a nonrefundable fee that is a set percentage of the total bond amount. For felony charges, bond amounts will be higher, which means the cost of a bail bond will be too. The premium a bail bondsman is allowed to charge is controlled and regulated by the State’s Insurance Department. Currently, this rates are set between 10 and 15 percent. This means that the total allowable premium that bail bond companies are allowed to charge can be anywhere between these percentages. They get to choose how much they charge within this range. If a person is facing a felony charge and they have a history for fleeing, a bail bondsman will charge on the higher end, closer to the 15% marker. For first time or minor offenses, most stick with the 10% charge.

Estafa Vs B.P.22 – What Is the Difference?

We’re pretty sure there’s a point in time that you became party to a transaction, either as payee or payer. Of course as payee, receiving cash is much preferred as you are sure that your payment was given to you in full sans any further action needed from your end. Now as payer, issuing a check is so much more convenient, especially for substantial transactions, as you would not have to worry about bringing cash and making sure that all your expenses are accounted and debited for, up to the last centavo.

It’s great if all transactions went smoothly without any hitch. However, with both parties making and receiving payment all in good faith. But what if you were conned by someone you had the mistake of trusting? Or what if you issued a check as a show of good faith to close out on a deal but at the time of issuance, the account has insufficient funds and you made a mental note to replenish the account as soon as you got paid. Alas, you then notice that your check bounced.

The above instances had surged over the years and has caused an unfortunate chain reaction which prompted the filing of either or both the following cases: Estafa and Violation of Batas Pambasa (BP) 22 or the Bouncing Checks Law.

Estafa Through Issuance of Unfunded Checks
The crime of Estafa is punished under the Revised Penal Code. One can be held guilty for Estafa by means of issuing a bouncing check with the use of false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud:
“By postdating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation when the offender had no funds in the bank, or his funds deposited therein were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check. (Article 315(2)(d) of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 4885)”

How can a person be held guilty for Estafa?

Under the RPC, the following elements are necessary to hold a person guilty of Estafa:

  1. Postdating or issuance of a check in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check was issued
  2. Insufficiency of funds to cover the check, and
  3. Damage to the payee thereof.

The most important element here is the damage caused. Absent any of the following elements, a person cannot be held liable for Estafa.

Case in point:

Andres owns and operates a trading good business and bought merchandise from Bonifacio and issued an unfunded check in consideration of the goods received.

In this scenario, Andres can be held liable for Estafa because he issued a check knowing it to be without sufficient funds to pay the items he bought from Bonifacio. The issuance of the bounced check here was with fraudulent intent.

Bouncing Checks Law (BP 22)
Unlike Estafa which has its basis under the RPC, BP 22 is enacted through a special law. A person can be charged for violation of BP 22 when he commits the following acts:

  1. Making or drawing and issuing any check to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment, which check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment;
  2. Having sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank when he makes or draws and issues a check, shall fail to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if presented within a period of ninety (90) days from the date appearing thereon, for which reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank.

How can a person be held guilty for Violation of BP 22?

Violation of BP 22 can be filed against any person when the following are present:

  1. Making, drawing and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;
  2. Knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and
  3. Subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment.

Same with Estafa, the presence of all these requirements is important. Otherwise, the charge of BP 22 will not attach. Note that knowledge of insufficiency of funds is presumed when it is proved that the issuer received a notice of dishonor and that within 5 days from receipt thereof, he failed to pay the amount of the check or make arrangement for its payment. Additionally, in BP 22, good faith is immaterial. Meaning, the mere issuance of an unfunded check already consummates the crime.

Using the same example above, Andres can also be charged for Violation of BP 22, other than Estafa, because BP 22 cases also cover issuances of bouncing checks for value received.

Where does the disparity lie?

It is Estafa when, among others, you issue an unfunded check with fraudulent intent in consideration of something of value you received. Here intent is material and good faith may be used as a defense.

It is a case for Violation of BP 22 when you issue an unfunded check whether or not it is for an obligation you contracted prior to the issuance of the check or not. Simply put, you are liable for BP 22 whether you issue a check for a present or a past obligation.

FAQS About Public Defenders

When you are learning about public defense, the first question you are likely to ask is, “What is a public defender?” So let’s not waste anytime answering this question, and many more frequently asked questions about public defense lawyers. A public defender is a criminal defense lawyer that works for the state and paid by the government. They provide free legal representation to defendants that are facing criminal charges that are punishable by jail time. Continue reading to read more common questions and answers just like this one!

Do Defendants Have to Pay for a Public Defender?

No, clients do not pay. However, a judge must decide that a defendant qualifies for public defense before one is appointed to them. In cases that a person is fully capable of paying for a private representation, they may be denied state assistance.

Is a Public Defender Less Qualified Than a Regular Criminal Lawyer?

No, both public defenders and private criminal attorneys are equally qualified in terms of education requirements, certifications, and licensing. The only difference is the level of skills and experience of each person.

Should I Use Public Representation or Hire My Own Lawyer?

Although public defenders are equally qualified doesn’t mean they are the most promising option for defense. Since they work for the state, their case loads are extremely rigorous and overflowing. This means they only have a limited amount of time to spend on each case. A private attorney can provide personalized representation to ensure you avoid the maximum penalties if convicted of your charges. Whether you are facing a petty charge like shoplifting, or a major charge like manslaughter, private counsel is the best choice, no matter the price. You can’t put a price on freedom, after all.

Can a Public Defense Lawyer Reject My Case?

If you are indigent and cannot pay your bills as they come due, it would be both unethical and illegal to have your case rejected since it is a violation to your Constitutional rights. Although a case can be handed over from one lawyer to another, it cannot be rejected and ultimately “skipped over” or denied. A person who is entitled to free representation will get it, no matter what.

Can I Request a New Lawyer?

If you are found to be eligible for state defense, you will be assigned a lawyer by the court. If this lawyer does not meet your expectations or recover the plea arrangement that you wanted, you do not have any options. Unless you can prove to a judge that your current lawyer is somehow violating your right to adequate representation, you cannot switch or be appointed a new one. Inadequate representation includes scenarios like missing appointments, failing to meet deadlines, forcing you to a certain plea, not informing you of case status and court dates, and ignoring critical evidence. And if you choose to appeal your conviction, you must hire private representation anyway, so asking to switch at that point wouldn’t be necessary.

DUI Breathalyzer Accuracy

Anyone that has been stopped and arrested for a DUI charge is likely to find the entire process to be very difficult and stressful. Plus, with the reported increase in accidents involving drivers under the influence of alcohol or illegal substance, the authorities are making every effort to prosecute all offenders. In order to prove a person is driving under the influence, the law enforcement official that made the stop has a choice of asking the driver to take a roadside sobriety test or use a breathalyzer. A first course of action may be the sobriety test which involves simple tests like walking in a straight line, lifting one foot off the ground, touch the tip of your nose, etc.

But, these tests aren’t entirely reliable and the most common option used is the breathalyzer. A field breathalyzer is quick to use and basically involves breathing air into a device that is analyzed to determine whether of not the driver has consumed too much alcohol to be on the road.

While the breath analysis is the favored method to test the concentration of blood alcohol in a roadside stop, they are nowhere near as reliable or accurate as blood tests. But, for the case of DUI investigations, it is seen as an acceptable option, provided it is administered in the correct fashion.

The breathalyzer tests aren’t complicated and a useful piece of portable kit to analyze a sample, but the result generated by this device may not be as reliable as the authorities would like you to believe. In fact, it has been reported that neither the spectroscopic BAC (Blood Alcohol Content) test nor the breathalyzer test is 100% trustworthy. This mostly relates to alcohol not affecting everyone the same, with many people able to consume quite a lot and still not be drunk.

Even though the test can give a positive indication that the BAC reading is high, this doesn’t actually confirm the driver was under the influence of alcohol while in control of their vehicle.

Scientific studies have taken place in relation to the accuracy of the breath alcohol tests, and their conclusion was that they are inherently unreliable. These studies have indicated that the breath readings can be up to 15% outside of the true blood alcohol levels.

So, in the event of being stopped for a DUI charge, you don’t really want the result from a breathalyzer to be the defining factor that determines the sentence issued. The best course of action is to get in touch with a skilled and reputable DUI attorney who is able to use their knowledge of the law to help fight this offense.

A DUI charge is a serious offense that has the potential to lead to a variety of legal consequences, which can include a period of prison time, attending alcohol or drug awareness classes, taking part in community service, having to pay a high fine, or the loss of your driver’s license. There are situations where the sentence given is more severe, such as having a minor on-board at the time or not being a first offense.

In the approach to defend the DUI charge that involves a breath analysis, any qualified criminal defense lawyer will be aware that there could be several operational and theoretical issues. There are a variety of factors that can lead to the results of blood-alcohol analysis being regarded as unreliable, and attempt to show that this type of data isn’t enough to prosecute. By using a lawyer it is possible to get the get outcome with a case either closed or a sentence kept to a minimum.

Driving Safety Near a School or School Bus

Driving near a school or a school bus can be dangerous if motorists don’t take proper precautions to ensure not just their own safety, but the safety of children in the vicinity. Here’s a guide to help you understand the right protocol to follow as a motorist in a school zone, or near a school bus.

Picking up or dropping off children at school:

  • Every school has a system to pick up and drop off children. Make sure you educate yourself on the rules of the school and adhere to them
  • Don’t double park because it reduces visibility for other drivers, and can endanger students
  • Park in the allotted areas (these have been designed keeping in mind the safety of students), and take permitted turns while navigating the school grounds. Avoid making U-turns and three-point turns.
  • While driving, watch out closely for children on bikes coming onto the roadway from between parked cars. Also keep a safe distance of at least 3ft between your vehicle and the motorcycle, and always check your side-view mirror before exiting your car
  • As a rule, ensure that your child is safely buckled in with the seat belt or in an age-appropriate child car seat before starting the car. Also, make sure your child enters or exits the car only via the ‘safety door’ which is the rear door on the kerb-side

Driving in a school zone:

  • Don’t exceed the 25mph speed limit imposed while driving in school zones. Most often this speed limit is imposed in school zones between 8 a.m. and 9.30 a.m., and 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Motorists must adhere to this speed limit even if there are no children in sight
  • Slow down when approaching a school crossing
  • Do not proceed past the school crossing until the crossing supervisor’s hand-held sign is no longer displayed, or until he/she indicates that you can continue
  • If there is no crossing supervisor, but ‘CHILDREN CROSSING’ flags are displayed, the motorist must stop and wait until all the pedestrians have crossed the road
  • While driving through a school zone, avoid honking as it might scare children and cause them to stumble or fall in the way of oncoming traffic

Driving in the vicinity of a school bus:

  • Learn to understand the flashing light system on school buses.
  • If the overhead lights on the bus are flashing yellow, then prepare to stop. These lights indicate that the bus driver is planning to bring the vehicle to a halt to load or unload children.
  • If the overhead lights are flashing red, and the stop sign extended, it means that the bus has stopped and that children are getting on or off the bus. At this time all motorists, regardless of the direction in which they are moving, must come to a halt until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign pulled back, and the bus resumes motion. In all 50 states of the U.S., it is mandatory for all vehicles on both sides of the road to come to a halt during this process. However, if a median divides the road, this may not be required.
  • If you are passing a school bus, make sure that there is plenty of visibility and space in the next lane. It is illegal in the U.S. to pass a bus on the right side, as this is where the loading and unloading of children occurs. Therefore, vehicles may pass the school bus on the left side on multiple lane roadways
  • Remember, though buses have large mirrors to assist the driver in his/her navigation, these vehicles also have huge blind spots. Stay cognizant of this, and pull back and slow down if you see a bus flash its blinkers, and allow it to move into the next lane.
  • Be especially vigilant near bus stops. Children may be playing at the bus stop to kill some time, or might be arriving late for their school bus and may inadvertently dart into oncoming traffic.
  • Bear in mind that buses stop frequently, so maintain at least 3ft distance between your car and the bus, to allow yourself enough time to come to a halt too
  • Do not park at or near a bus stop. In fact, maintain enough distance between your vehicle and the bus stop to allow children to enter and exit the bus with ease
  • Always remember that children can behave in an unpredictable, often rash, manner. In their haste or enthusiasm, they may not remember the safety concerns associated with walking on the road or picking up something they’ve dropped on the road. Therefore, it’s important to look very carefully to make sure the way is clear before navigating traffic behind a school bus.

These tips will help you drive in a safe, responsible manner while driving in a school zone, or near a school bus. If you would like to share your thoughts or suggestions of your own, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below!