The in basket: Walt Elliott of North Kitsap said in a Jan. 18 e-mail, “Driving down Miller Road, we had a backup behind a school bus of 20 cars that I could count and more that I couldn’t.
“Is there any requirement for vehicles to pull over to let a line of traffic pass as there is on the state highways?”
The out basket: Walt apparently was referring to the law making it illegal to delay more than five cars behind you, which is enforceable on county roads as well as state highways.
It reads, “On a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe because of traffic in the opposite direction or other conditions, a slow moving vehicle, behind which five or more vehicles are formed in a line, shall turn off the roadway wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed. A slow moving vehicle is one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.” The law doesn’t exempt vehicles traveling the speed limit.
Trooper Russ Winger of the state patrol here said, “I am not aware of an RCW that exempts school buses from the law. However, school buses operating on rural roadways make many stops and starts during morning and afternoon runs.
As the large and awkward buses travel the narrow rural roadways there are not frequent suitable or safe places to pull over and let traffic pass. Backups with that many vehicles (20 or more) most probably occur in relatively slow speed areas with stops fairly close together.
“Most veteran drivers know that if they find themselves behind a school bus full of kids at certain locations and times – well, hurry up and wait, because you drew the short stick that day.”
“I know bus drivers do watch out for this and do pull over when safe to do so, because I’ve seen them do it numerous times. I don’t think the safety of school children should take a back seat to impatient drivers, however. The actual time that it will take to get the kids picked up and dropped off safely during the runs is not really that long.”
Kat Peterson of North Kitsap Schools says the caveat “wherever sufficient area for a safe turn-out exists” serves to exempt their buses.
“Our stipulation for a bus over 26,000 pounds is you have to have a safe place to turn of,” she said.
“If we can’t pull over and get completely off the roadway, it’s not safe,” she said.
She could think of only a couple of places on Miller Bay Road going one way and only one going the other direction wide enough for a bus to get completely out of the road.