Tag Archives: Miller Bay

Stuck behind a school bus on Miller Bay Road

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.

Farm equipment is OK and roadways….If…

The in basket: Jerry Darnall of Kingston e-mailed me to say that agriculture is a growing industry in Kitsap County and “we’re seeing more agricultural equipment using both county and state roads.

State regulations say “agricultural equipment on the highways IS allowed but our local law enforcement doesn’t seem to understand that,” Jerry said. “I have been stopped on Miller Bay Road by a deputy sheriff while traveling from Premier Rentals to my farm (about 3/4 of a mile) and informed I needed to ‘trailer’ the tractor\loader.

“I explained I was using the equipment for agricultural purposes to clean drainage ditches,” Jerry said, “and he was welcome to write the citation because I knew is it was allowed.

“I politely suggested he check with his supervisor before writing the ticket, as it would save both of us court time. After 20 minutes of roadside wait time, he declined to write the ticket, and told me to ‘Drive careful and have a nice day.’

“I know Kitsap is not a large farming\agricultural community and law enforcement is not used to seeing Ag equipment on the roadways,” he said, “but it is LEGAL in Washington state. How can the renewed Ag enterprises get the word out to them, both the Sheriff and WSP, they are going to see more Ag equipment on Kitsap roads?”

The out basket: I asked both agencies to comment and got this from State Trooper Russ Winger.

“Your reader’s claim that farm vehicles are allowed on roadways is true, however there are quite a few specific requirements. Your readers assertion may seem rather simplistic when the following is considered.

He cited lengthy portions of state RCWs 46.37.160, 46.16A.080 and 46.16A.420 that I will try to paraphrase to save space. You can look up the exact wording online at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/.

Those laws require farm vehicles designed to travel at less than 25 mph to have hazard warning lights, head lamps, a red lamp and at least two red reflectors, all visible quite a ways down the road, and in many cases a slow moving vehicle emblem mounted on the rear.

There also may be licensing requirements, Russ said, plus a farm exempt decal that shows that the farm vehicle is exempt from registration requirements and allows the farm vehicle to be operated within a radius of 15 miles of the farm where it is principally kept. 

“Now, this considered,” Russ said, “if your reader rented the tractor/loader at a rental facility it stands to reason that it might not have been legal to drive on public highways unless meeting  the above requirements. I am not 100 percent sure but I am doubting that rental facilities comply with these requirements on equipment that is rented out for a mix of uses and probably transported over 15 miles on a regular basis. You would have to ask them.

“To say only that farm equipment IS allowed and that ‘our local law enforcement doesn’t seem to understand that,’ seems a bit simplistic when you look into the matter,” Russ said.

Deputy Scott Wilson of Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office says he concurs with Russ and said, “I will bring this matter to the attention of our training unit, in order to disseminate pertinent facts about this issue to patrol deputies.”