The in basket: There was a bit of TV and print publicity in mid-September about a May 1 survey of school bus drivers around the state as to how many drivers illegally passed their bus with its red lights flashing and its stop paddle out that one day.
Statewide, there were 1,523 violations reported.
I was curious about what our local school districts found, but even more I was fascinated by the 32 instances reported of a bus being passed on the right while it had its paddle out and red lights flashing. That seemed unimaginably reckless. It was one of the main reasons the state school superintendent’s office turned out a news release about the May 1 survey on Sept. 11, Nathan Olson of the SPI’S office told me.
The out basket: That 32 number becomes more believable when one remembers that bicyclists have to abide by the same rules as vehicle drivers, A large number, perhaps all of the 32, were bikes. Bicyclists need to know they are just as subject to a heavy fine as motorized drivers if they are caught passing a stopped school bus with the red lights flashing.
Car drivers do on occasion pull up onto the sidewalk, through a parking space or into a driveway to pass on the right, I learned from transportation officials in Seattle and Puyallup, which reported 16 and 3 of the right-side violations that day.
Whether any of Puyallup’s three on May 1 was a car they didn’t know, but they have had one car passing on the right incident so far this year, they told me.
Ron Lee of North Kitsap schools transportation said they had an incident a couple of years ago in which someone passing a bus on the right clipped the backpack of a student with the vehicle mirror. There were no injuries.
None of the 32 right-side violations reported on May 1 was from Kitsap County.
According to a chart that was part of the news release, there were eight left-side violations in North Kitsap, seven in North Mason and one on Bainbridge Island.
Bremerton and South Kitsap don’t appear on the chart, though the SK transportation office said they reported three. Bremerton said they had none that day.
Central Kitsap didn’t participate in the survey.
I asked about cameras on the sides of the buses to document the violations, authorized by the Legislature last year, and found only one bus in North Mason that has one. It led to a citation issued to a driver on Old Belfair Highway last year.
Otherwise, enforcement relies on the ability of school bus drivers to provide a license number and description of the car and driver, which you can imagine isn’t easy to do, especially when required to stay where you are.
Presumably, all of the reported May 1 violations were of drivers approaching from the rear of the bus or from the front of the bus on a two-lane road.
It’s not illegal to pass a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing if approaching from the front on a multi-lane road or highway and there is a lane between yours and the one the bus is in.