School buses at railroad crossings


The in basket: Sharon O’Hara, a frequent commenter on the Road Warrior blog at, used the comment form to ask a question.

“Why do school buses stop at the railroad crossing on Provost Road in Central Kitsap?

“There is no stop sign there but yesterday I followed three school buses and each in turn, came to a full and complete stop at the crossing.”

The out basket: Another blog commenter who goes by Smoking Mouse leaped in with an answer:

“The buses stop because it is required by law,” he said, even including the text of RCW 46.61.350
“The driver of any motor vehicle carrying passengers for hire, other than a passenger car, or of any school bus or private carrier bus carrying any school child or other passenger, or of any vehicle carrying explosive substances or flammable liquids as a cargo or part of a cargo, before crossing at grade any track or tracks of a railroad, shall stop such vehicle within fifty feet but not less than fifteen feet from the nearest rail of such railroad and while so stopped shall listen and look in both directions along such track for any approaching train, and for signals indicating the approach of a train and shall not proceed until he can do so safely. 

It also says the bus can’t change gears while crossing the tracks. 

Laura Nowland, acting transportation director for Central Kitsap schools, says that law is expanded upon by the Washington Administrative Code, which repeats much of the law and also requires that noise on the school bus be kept down while the driver checks for approaching trains . 

There are exceptions which would allow the CK buses to not stop at some of the district’s RR crossings, but Laura said it is district policy that its school bus drivers stop and look at all railroad crossings except two where traffic signals control the crossing – on Newberry Hill and on Tresher Avenue on the Bangor base.

One thought on “School buses at railroad crossings

  1. If we are looking at safety for the buses and children, why shouldn’t stopping be a safety factor for the car driver too?

    For that matter, how about clearing the brush obstructing viability for those crossings where there is a stop sign but not enough visibility (my opinion) for those hard of hearing drivers?

    A particularly bad place for poor visibility is the rr crossing on Westgate Road just a short distance off Olympic View Rd. Westgate dead ends at Old Frontier Rd.
    Sharon O’Hara

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