Drivers ignore school buses’ light, stop signs

In Everett, 67 drivers blew through the blinking lights and stop signs that flip out from the side of school buses — in just one day.

In Mukilteo, it happened 24 times. And in Marysville 18.

The three districts joined others in Snohomish and Island counties participating last spring in a statewide survey. Overall 110 school districts reported 1,523 of the “stopped bus” violations.

Although the survey was just a one-day snapshot, “it happens all the time,” said Andy Muntz, Mukilteo School District spokesman. “People go on around the bus anyway.”

School officials say the there may be a more of these violations in the spring than when school starts.

“In the fall, there are all these warnings about watch out for buses,” said Sue Kutches, safety and field inspection supervisor for the Everett School District.

Kim McAbee, transportation supervisor the Marysville School District agreed. “People are more distracted on sunny days in the spring time,” she said.

Buses on the school district’s routes make about 3,000 stops every day and drive more than a million miles every school year, McAbee said.

The violations occur in high traffic areas like State Avenue and 88th Street NE as well as highly traveled areas going to or from the freeway, she said.

But they also can occur in less traveled areas, such as the Lowell Snohomish River Road, said Mary Waggoner, Everett School District spokeswoman, who travels the road each day.

“I have seen people passing buses on that road,” she said. “People do crazy things.”

Bus drivers can document the driving violations if they can get key details, like a license plate number, which are then passed on to police.

State law passed in 2011 gives districts the authority to put cameras on buses, similar to the red light cameras installed at intersections, which would allow violators to be ticketed.

The Everett School District has seen presentations on the cameras and talked about running a test on a select fleet of buses, but so far no decision to move ahead has been made, Waggoner said.

“We want to make sure when we do it that the public is fully aware that we are doing it so it’s not a surprise,” she said.

The Everett School District gets reports of violations by passing cars three to five times a week, Kutches said. “It’s usually traffic going in the same direction as the bus,” she said.

Over the years, bus drivers have reported incidents of motorists driving on the grass on the right of the road to avoid stopping, driving through parking stalls and driving on sidewalks, said Debbie Castruita-Marin, the district’s safety and training supervisor.

“It doesn’t matter how many lanes, you always have to stop if you’re going in the same direction as the school bus,” she said.

The rule of thumb for drivers, Kutches said: “If you’re not sure, stop.”

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486; salyer@heraldnet.com.

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