School bus crossing arm

School bus crossing arm

The crossing arm can be seen in use. Note the presence of the rotated yellow bar on the front bumper.

A school bus crossing arm is a safety device intended to protect children from being struck while crossing in front of a school bus. Typically, school bus crossing arms are wire or plastic devices which extend from the front bumper on the right side of the bus while it is stopped for loading/unloading and form a barrier. The purpose of the device is that children who need to cross the road will be forced to walk several feet forward of the front of the bus itself before they can begin to cross the road, thus ensuring that the bus driver can see them as they cross in front of the bus, avoiding a common blind spot immediately in front of the bus. The crossing arm retracts flush against the bumper while not activated, such as when the bus is in motion.

Unlike traffic warning lights and many other safety-related features typically found on school buses in the United States, crossing arms are not required by the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) for School Buses. Regulations for equipment and use vary widely on a state-by-state basis. In some places, they are optional at the discretion of a local school district or school bus contractor.

In Manitoba, Canada, provincial school buses have been required to have an extendable safety arm mounted on the bus since a seven-year-old boy died in 1996 in St. Norbert, after getting off his school bus.


  • Illinois standards for school bus crossing arms – typical of many states (PDF file)