Back-to-school rules for following school buses

Back-to-school means a big uptick in traffic.

Cars taking kids to school account for up to 14 percent of the morning rush, according to national statistics.

Wednesday is the first day of school for many local students. Granite Falls, Lake Stevens, Mukilteo, Northshore and Stanwood-Camano start Sept. 2. Other Snohomish County schools start on or around Sept. 9.

So it’s a good time for some safety reminders.

To start us off, Street Smarts reader Leslie Foley of Bothell asks: “With school just around the corner, can you list rules for following as well as approaching a stopped school bus?”

I remember this came up last year, too. Here’s your summer refresher from the National Safety Council.

– Never pass a bus from behind, or from either direction if you’re on an undivided road, if it is stopped to load or unload children

– If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop

– The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus

As we noted last year, there are exceptions to the stopping rule. If the roadway is divided — for example, if there is a center turn lane between your lane of travel and the stopped bus — you do not need to stop.

In general, though, the biggest tip is to stay alert. Children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks. Add darker mornings with more cars on the roads, and it’s best to take it slower — not just when a sign flashes a reminder.

More children are hit by cars near schools than at any other location, according to the National Safe Routes to School program.

So some safety tips for parents and caregivers:

  • Know your school’s drop-off procedures
  • Don’t double park
  • Don’t load or unload children from across the street
  • Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school

Have a question? Email us at Please include your first and last name and city of residence. Look for updates on the Street Smarts blog.

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