Tag Archives: bus

Driver describes close call with a transit bus on 305

The in basket: J. B. Holcomb of Bainbridge Island e-mailed to described an incident on Thursday as he was driving north on Highway 305 just beyond the Agate Pass Bridge.

“I was driving at 45 mph and was two or three seconds away from a transit bus stopped at a bus stop (ostensibly),” he said.

“That yo-yo driver immediately pulls out in front of me,” J.B. said. “I had to dynamite my brakes and veer to the left to avoid collision with his bus.  I just, and I do mean just by inches, avoided a head-on collision with an on-coming driver, who, thankfully, took protection of his own in timely turning slightly right.

“I noticed that the driver snapped on the yellow ‘yield’ sign on the rear of the bus after I started braking.  I immediately laid on my horn while behind him for about two miles indicating my displeasure and stopped beside him at the next stop with my window rolled down for a few not-so-kind words.  He paid no attention to me.

“I thought about calling 911 to complain to the State Patrol about his reckless driving, but I did not, because my thought was that the ‘yield’ sign exempts that yo-yo from any such claim.

“Should I have?  Whatever the rule, he surely does not have the right to place following drivers at risk of his or her life in order to be able to pull out, even with a ‘yield’ sign on!!!”

The out basket: State law does require drivers to yield to a transit bus reentering traffic, but the bus driver must do so carefully. Transit executives also demand it as a matter of policy.

We have only J.B.’s side of the incident, as State Trooper Russ Winger noted when I asked him about the likely assignment of blame had the bus and J.B.s car collided. It probably wouldn’t have done much good to phone 911 about the close call.

But, Russ continued, “I can tell you this much. All vehicles, including transit buses, even police vehicles, must ‘safely’ enter the roadway from the shoulder, side streets etc. Signs and flashing lights do not give immunity to the driver. All drivers have that responsibility.

“If we were, in fact, investigating a collision, we would gather as much information and evidence as possible, including witness statements hopefully, to arrive at some sort of logical and factual conclusion. If these factors led us to believe that the transit vehicle did not give sufficient right of way to the other vehicle – just pulled out – (he or she) could be found at fault. We would definitely not just take one driver’s version of the event and make a decision based on that.

“As for your reader’s actions about following the bus for two miles, laying on the horn and even trying to confront the other driver, well, I believe you already know the WSP’s feeling on that type of behavior.”

If you don’t, they discourage it, and can ticket for unlawful use of the vehicle’s horn, which state law says must be used only to alert drivers of an imminent. danger, as was mentioned in a January Road Warrior column.

Transit Executive Director John Clauson asked for B.J.’s contact information so that he might inquire further into the incident.


No need to stop for a transit bus with flashing red lights

The in basket: Brian Horch writes, “I was following a Kitsap Transit bus and noticed when it stopped on the side

of the road that instead of yellow lights flashing it had red lights flashing.

“If the rules are the same as for school buses this would mean I cannot pass

the bus that is stopped to pick up passengers,” he said. “I always thought you could

pass a transit bus when it pulled over for a stop.  Could it be the flashing lights should be yellow instead of red?”

The out basket: No, a motorist doesn’t have to stop for a transit vehicle loading or unloading passengers, regardless of the color of the lights that may be flashing on the bus.

Kitsap Transit’s Vehicle Maintenance Director Hayward Seymore says their various routed, worker/driver and Access buses have various combinations of lights. Access buses will have amber flashers, usually found at the top of the back of the bus, activated if the driver is operating the wheelchair lift. “If they are merely pulled over,” he said. “they can just have the red flashers on, all perfectly legal.”

He said they’d appreciate it if any driver passing a stopped transit bus do so slowly with caution,

What a motorist IS required by law to do is yield to a transit bus reentering traffic from a stop. There is a Yield sign on the rear left of all the buses, and it’s lighted and blinks on the newer ones.

Of course, red lights on a stopped school bus require approaching traffic to stop, unless there is a lane between the motorist’s lane and the one the school bus is in, and the motorist isn’t following the bus. Two-way turn lanes meet that exemption.

It’s an exemption that rarely can be used, as cautious motorists unsure of the law usually stop and keep anyone behind them from proceeding until the red flashers go off and the stop paddle on the bus is retracted.

Transit drivers and the hands-free law

The in basket: A reader who wants to be known only as Lonnie for purposes of this column says he saw a Kitsap Transit bus driver flip open his cell phone and begin talking as he drove the bus at 11th and Perry in East Bremerton one recent morning.

He wonders if bus drivers are among those exempted from the hands-free device law, along with police, emergency personnel, tow truck drivers and anyone reporting a crime or an emergency. He’d find that curious, he said, “especially with such a huge vehicle.”

The out basket: Actually Kitsap Transit bus drivers are more limited in their use of cell phones than any of us, as a company policy forbids all use of a cell phone while the bus is in motion, says John Clauson, Transit’s service development manager.

That policy, which could stand a little editing to settle on the correct pronouns,  reads, “”Operator’s personal cellular phones are not to be used while aboard a coach to communicate with Dispatch or any other parties. Personal cell phone use is only allowed at terminals or transfer centers when your coach is parked, while they are off the bus and only if its use doesn’t interfere with their job duties. If it is necessary to call Dispatch while you are in service either because you are in a “dead radio zone” or because your radio is not working, the operator must stop their coach and secure it before using their cellular phone.

The driver of the bus Lonnie saw will be pointedly reminded of that policy, John said.

By coincidence, the hands-free law was amended this year to address a transit issue, but not to add transit drivers to the list of those exempted from the cell-phone prohibition.

Instead, it allows a bus driver to hold a receiver to his or her ear if it’s parts of a device permanently affixed to the vehicle. John says that describes the radio units in many of Kitsap Transit’s buses, which have telephone-like handsets wired to the radio. Because the radio system itself is wireless, even though the handset isn’t, transit officials statewide worried when the hands-free law made it a primary offense that it would prevent drivers from using those radios. So they got the law changed.

Buses use flashers on Manette Bridge


The in basket: Debby Briody asks, “What are the rules for the transit buses on Manette Bridge? What must a car driver do as regards the flashing lights on the buses?” She said her boyfriend meets a bus on the bridge every day.

The out basket: John Clauson of Kitsap Transit and Doug Wagner, transportation director for Bremerton schools, whose drivers also sometimes turn on their flashers when approaching the bridge’s narrow center span, say it’s just a cautionary step to alert other drivers that the bus may have to stop.

That can happen when they meet another large vehicle coming the other way. John says they have lost side view mirrors in close passages by buses and trucks, and the drivers may stop to allow a large oncoming vehicle to clear the center span before the bus enters it.

It’ll all be academic when the state has replaced the old bridge, expected by 2012, and large vehicles can pass one another comfortably.