Students unload from a school bus Wednesday afternoon on Evergreen Way in Everett. When a school bus is loading and unloading students and has its stop sign out and red lights flashing, it is illegal to pass from behind. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Students unload from a school bus Wednesday afternoon on Evergreen Way in Everett. When a school bus is loading and unloading students and has its stop sign out and red lights flashing, it is illegal to pass from behind. (Kevin Clark / The Herald)

Even on Evergreen Way, drivers can’t pass a stopped school bus

Everett school bus drivers say some aren’t always following the rules around their buses and students.

In the list of things drivers don’t want to be stuck behind, school buses are up there with garbage trucks, snow plows and tractors.

It can make drivers nervous and anxious to pass the stop-and-go yellow tube full of kids.

But lately some drivers aren’t following safety laws near Everett School District buses, district employees said. To remind people of the rules, the district has put out a flyer showing when vehicles can and can’t pass.

“We’ve had several parents call to request that we put out that information to the public,” transportation supervisor Nancy Brown said, “because they’ve witnessed either speeding in school zones, or when buses are loading and unloading with their red (lights on), vehicles are passing them.”

Last week, a school bus driver told Brown someone drove by on the right while the bus was stopped on Seahurst Avenue. In response, the bus now pulls off the two-lane road when students get on and off, costing a little time on the route.

“For the safety of our students, we’re going to do what we feel is safest,” Brown said.

A reader uncertain about some bus passing rules asked Street Smarts for clarification.

Luckily, past Street Smarts columnists almost annually wrote a reminder about road rules when driving near a school bus.

But the reader had a specific example of a bus stopping along Evergreen Way. With a bus stopped in the right lane next to the sidewalk, could drivers going in the same direction, two lanes away, pass it?

In short, no.

State law RCW 46.61.370 spells out when someone can and can’t drive by a school bus.

After some reports of illegal maneuvers by other drivers near stopped school buses, the Everett School District put out this flyer. (Everett School District)

After some reports of illegal maneuvers by other drivers near stopped school buses, the Everett School District put out this flyer. (Everett School District)

When a school bus has a stop sign paddle out or red lights flashing, it is illegal for traffic going the same direction to pass unless the bus is completely off the roadway. A ticket could cost $430.

“You need to stop,” Washington State Patrol Trooper Kelsey Harding said.

Traffic going the opposite direction of a stopped school bus can keep driving if there is a center turn lane, median or three or more lanes on a highway.

So on Evergreen Way, if a school bus going north is stopped and has its yellow or red lights flashing, other drivers behind it must stop. But southbound drivers can continue. Bicyclists on the roadway are subject to the same rules as cars, according to the Washington State Patrol.

There wasn’t an increase in driver citations or incidents in areas where the Washington State Patrol has jurisdiction, Harding said — likely because the agency monitors primarily freeways and highways, which have no or few school bus routes compared to city and county roads.

When students are getting off and on a bus, drivers should stop at least 10 feet away.

“The safety of our students is our primary focus. We need to be able to safely let them disembark,” Brown said.

Between 2007 and 2016, there were 118 deaths from crashes that involved school transportation. The National Association for Pupil Transportation, a school bus industry group, wants to eliminate school transportation fatalities by June 2025. Its strategy includes new bus technology, as well as regulations and training for bus drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration encourages drivers to be cautious near schools and school buses, lower speeds, and look out for children.

Brown’s advice for drivers who don’t want to wait behind a school bus: start their commute a bit earlier or later.

That’s something we can get behind.

Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email streetsmarts@heraldnet.com. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.

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