Driver Distractions Top the List of Causal Factors for Colorado School Bus Crashes

Hide Featured Image


(COLORADO) – Each day thousands of Colorado children head to school on foot and in private vehicles or the school bus. But which is the safest?  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), students are about 70 times more likely to get to school safely when taking a bus instead of traveling by car. That’s because school buses are the most regulated vehicles on the road with standards above and beyond those for passenger vehicles.

Even with a safe design, injuries and death still occur due to unsafe driving practices around school buses. Over the last three years (2018-2020), the Colorado State Patrol investigated 174 crashes involving school buses with the majority of the crashes being caused by other motorists, not the school bus driver.

“Drivers have to share the road with all types of vehicles and pedestrians. If you’re driving behind a school bus, allow for a greater distance and take it slow,” stated Colonel Matthew C. Packard, Chief of the Colorado State Patrol. “Kids aren’t always predictable and stopping is more frequent for bus drivers. We all need to do our part to create a safe environment by exercising patience around school buses.”

The top three causal factors of Colorado school-bus involved crashes during this same time period were inattentive to driving, exceeding safe speed, and failure to yield the right of way.

“All attention should be given to the task of driving, that is our responsibility when given the privilege of a license,” reminds Colonel Packard. “Distractions and aggressive driving around vehicles designated to transport our kids are simply unacceptable and this is why violations involving school buses carry strong penalties and fines.”  

The three leading counties where crashes involving school buses investigated by the Colorado State Patrol occurred were:

  • Jefferson
  • Arapahoe
  • Larimer

According to Colorado Driver’s Handbook, there are rules some important rules driver’s need to follow:

  • Yellow Lights are hazard warning lights and drivers should proceed with extreme caution.
  • Always be alert for students on or near the roadway when a school bus is stopped or approaching them.
  • If a school bus is displaying alternating flashing red light signals, visible from the front or rear, you must stop immediately before reaching the bus.
  • You must stop your vehicle at least 20 feet before reaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road, or at an intersection, you are approaching.
  • You must remain stopped until the flashing red lights are no longer operating. Wait and watch for children near the school bus and children crossing the roadway before proceeding.

Here is the exception:

  • You are not required to stop if the school bus with its red lights flashing is on a roadway opposite of you that is separated by a median or other physical barrier.

It is unlawful to:

  • Pass in any marked no-passing zones.
  • Exceed the posted speed limit when passing.
  • Pass a school bus with flashing red lights and stop arm extended.
  • Pass within 100 feet of any intersection.
  • Pass within 100 feet of any railroad crossing.
  • Pass on any hill, curve, or bridge where vision is obstructed.


Since our origin in 1935, the Colorado State Patrol (CSP) has focused on preserving human life and protecting property within our communities. Our 1,100 members embody the core values of Honor, Duty, and Respect in their daily jobs.  In addition to our expertise in motor vehicle safety on the state’s roadways, the CSP is responsible for the Governor and other dignitaries’ protection, commercial motor vehicle enforcement, hazardous materials, homeland security, communications, investigative services, criminal interdiction, community education, aviation operations, and more. For additional information, visit us online at Colorado State Patrol or follow us on TwitterInstagram, YouTube, or Facebook.