Why do School Buses Stop at Railroads?

School is back in session across and, before you know it, you’ll be stuck behind a school bus at the many train track crossings across!

Do all buses really need to stop at every single railroad crossing?

Florida statute 316.159 specifically talks about the vehicles that are required to stop at all railroad crossings, even if the arm bars are not down.

Within the law, it talks about vehicles carrying passengers for hire that are required to stop at the tracks. This doesn’t specifically mean your average taxi, but vehicles like large buses or limousines would fall into the requirement to stop.

Why Do School Buses Stop at Railroad Tracks?

If you’ve ever ridden on or driven behind a school bus, you might have noticed that these yellow behemoths always stop at railroad tracks, regardless of whether there is an oncoming train. The driver stops, opens the window and the door, and listens before heading along.

To some, the practice might seem like a waste of time, or at least like an overly cautious safety measure. But like many traffic laws, it was a tragedy that led to this one. To understand why school buses stop at railroad tracks, we need to go back to Sandy, Utah, on Dec. 1, 1938, when the worst school bus accident in U.S. history occurred.


Ever wondered why school buses stop at railroad tracks?

A single bus crash 83 years ago was the inspiration for laws in all 50 states that require bus drivers to not only come to a full stop at all railroad crossings but they’re required to open their front door and driver side window to LISTEN in addition to look for oncoming trains.

It was the height of a winter blizzard in Sandy, Utah on December 1st in 1938 when school bus driver Slim Silcox and 39 students being driven to Jordan High School paused before crossing the tracks, but Silcox failed to see or hear an 82-car freight train until it was too late.

The train t-boned the center of the bus at full speed.

Even though the train engineer hit the brakes before colliding with the bus, the caboose made it all the way to the intersection before the train finally came to a stop, dragging the bus more than a half-mile before finally coming to a full stop.

The Legend and the Facts

Ever heard the legend of the haunted train tracks in San Antonio, Texas? It’s said that when cars stall on train tracks, the spirits of children killed in a school bus/train accident push them off to safety. While the school bus safety practice at railroad crossings did start as the result of just such an incident, it actually occurred over 1,200 miles northwest of San Antonio.