MADISON, Wis. — The majority of school buses in Wisconsin are now required to have amber warning lights.
The new state regulation, which went into effect on Aug. 16, mandates that Wisconsin school buses built after Jan. 1, 2005, have amber lights to alert motorists that the bus is about to activate its red warning lights while coming to a stop.
"Flashing amber lights are a signal that the school bus is preparing to stop, so drivers need to slow down, pay attention, and proceed carefully,” Wisconsin State Patrol Lt. Karl Mittelstadt said. “Drivers are allowed to pass a moving bus with flashing amber lights, but they should do so cautiously."
Mittelstadt added that once the bus displays its flashing red lights, motorists in front of and behind the bus must stop at least 20 feet from the bus. The requirement to stop does not apply to vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of a school bus on a divided highway that is separated by a median or other physical barrier.
A violation of Wisconsin’s law on stopping for red flashing lights on school buses carries a minimum fine of $326.50 and four demerit points.
State authorities expect the new requirement for amber lights on school buses to enhance safety for students.
"With amber lights as a cautionary signal, school buses will be even safer for transporting children," Mittelstadt said.
Since 2003, Wisconsin has allowed school buses to be equipped with eight warning lights, but all with red lenses, Mittelstadt told SBF. With the new requirement for amber lights, those buses that were manufactured in 2005 or later had to swap four of the red lenses with amber lenses. Those built before 2005 can keep using the all-red warning light system.
A Wisconsin Department of Transportation video (see below) explains the new amber light regulation and what drivers should do when approaching school buses. The agency also offers an online brochure about the new requirement.