School is back in session and the buses are back on the roads.

The cargo they're carrying? It couldn't be more precious.

Sergeant Porter Wood with the Warner Robins Police Department says they need to be protected as such.

"You know how students are, especially the younger ones, they may not be paying attention," said Wood.

Now, those students may have to be on the lookout for one more potential danger while getting on and off the bus.

A new state law that went into effect July 1 has loosened restrictions on when cars can and cannot pass a stopped school bus with its red lights on and its stop sign extended.

The new law, House Bill 978, says drivers on a highway divided by a turning lane (like Watson Boulevard in Warner Robins or Gray Highway in Macon) do not need to stop for a school bus if the school bus is stopped in the opposite-bound lane.

That can sound a little complicated, but think of it like this: If you're driving west on Watson Boulevard and a school bus is stopped with its stop sign extended in one of the eastbound lanes, you are no longer required to stop for it.

Harris Blackwood, the director of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety, confirms that this is a change from a longstanding law.

He adds that right now, the bill is pretty vague. It doesn't say what drivers in the turn lane should do in a situation involving a school bus and it also never specifics whether this new rule only applies to cars on a five lane highway or all roads that are divided by a turn lane.

Blackwood says his office will be pushing legislators to add language to the bill "that makes this completely clear" when the legislature goes back in session this January.

In the meantime, Blackwood agrees with Sergeant Wood.

"Drivers need to think about these kids as their kids, how would they want other drives to...act when they're around a school bus if it was their child?" said Wood.

House Bill 978 also reduced the fine for illegally passing a bus, according to Blackwood.

In the past, a first offense cost you $300, a second got a $750 fine, and any subsequent offenses earned $1,000 fines.

Now, the cost is $250 across the board.

As for points on your license, Blackwood says if a bus-mounted camera catches your vehicle passing a bus illegally, the owner of the vehicle will receive a $250 fine but won't get points.

However, if a law enforcement officer sees you do the same thing, he says it will cost you points (and a $250 fine). Blackwood didn't say specifically how many, but said it would be enough to quickly put you at risk of losing your license.