When a car meets a school bus on Finn Hill Road


The in basket: Claudia Kilburn of Poulsbo writes, “Going down Finn Hill in Poulsbo, I have encountered a school bus coming up the hill.  There is a turn lane in this area and when the bus stops and engages its red lights (are) vehicles traveling down the hill required to stop?  

“I have stopped each time,” she said, “and braced for honking from the vehicles behind me (which didn’t happen!).  Please let us all know how to handle this situation.”

The out basket: No, those in Claudia’s lane don’t have to stop in that situation.

Kat Peterson, driver trainer for North Kitsap Schools, puts it this way. The paddle stop sign on the side of the bus controls the lane the bus is in and the lane next to it when it’s extended as the bus stops to pick up children.

There is a lane between the bus and the lane Claudia is in when she meets the bus, so vehicles in that lane needn’t stop. Were it a two-lane road, rather than the three-lane road it is, oncoming traffic would have to stop too.

No traffic in the bus’ lane and the lane next to it may pass the stopped bus.

This puzzle confronts drivers on three-lane roads all over the county. Most often someone in the oncoming lane where no stop is required will be sufficiently uncertain of the law that they stop to play it safe. So, more often than not, traffic in both directions stops even though oncoming traffic isn’t required to. 

As with other such locations with three or more lanes, Kat said, the buses won’t let students off where they have to cross the street. That bus or another will come down in the opposite direction to let those students off.

She also noted that oncoming traffic in the turn lane, wanting to turn left, may do so as long is the car doesn’t travel past the bus’ paddle stop sign. NK school bus drivers are instructed to stop far enough back from an intersection to eliminate doubt in an oncoming left turner’s mind that the turn in front of the stopped bus is legal. 

4 thoughts on “When a car meets a school bus on Finn Hill Road

  1. That’s different from what a sherriff told me about 10 years ago. On Randall Way in Silverdale a bus was letting children off at the kindercare, I went through the lights. At the location there is a middle turn lane. At the time I was driving for a local pizza company. A sherriff showed up a few days later and basically told me that
    1) He could cite me then and there after the fact, it was within his power.
    2) Unless a physical barrier (jersey not curb) exists between the lanes a car has to stop, no matter how many lanes are on the road.

    He let me go but I basically stop about 6 car lengths from any bus with yellow lights on at this point.

  2. The requirement to stop for school buses that are loading or unloading students was described accurately in the Road Warrior column that was printed in the Sept. 17 edition of the Kitsap Sun (above). The rule of “lane of travel plus one additional lane” is correct. There is no requirement that there has to be some type of physical barrier between the stopped school bus and on-coming traffic. In reference to the writer’s experience ten years ago, the deputy who provided this information to the writer was incorrect.

    As a matter of safety and prudent driving, though, motorists should always be extra alert when in the vicinity of a stopped school bus that is embarking or disembarking students. Even though school bus drivers will load / unload on one side of the roadway only, as we all know children can be unpredictable in their actions sometimes. Drivers would be cautious to reduce speed, if possible, in order to increase their reaction time & distance if they had to suddenly stop.

    Scott Wilson
    Deputy Sheriff
    Public Information Officer
    Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office

  3. I recently contested a traffic ticket in Snohomish County for passing an oncoming bus about to stop with its yellow lights flashing. I was on a three lane road, one in each direction with a turn lane (suicide lane) in the middle. The judge did not throw the ticket out because she said that it was not a three lane road, that the turning lane in the middle did not count as a lane. Also, under the Washington State driver’s code §46.61.150 the first line of the rule says that a road with “an intervening space” does not require traffic in the opposite direction to stop for a school bus.

    Am I missing something, or is the judge incorrect in her judgement? I want to appeal, but the cost to appeal is $240 filing, and a lot of leg work.

    If the superior court dismisses the infraction, is there anyway to recover the filing fees?

    Thanks for your help!

  4. P.S. If I am in the right, is there any reference I can give the superior court for a turn lane counting as a third lane, and/or it counting also as an intervening space under §46.61.150?

    Thanks again!

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