The in basket: One day in June before school got out, I was stopped behind a school bus off-loading children on Mile Hill Drive where a center lane divides the two through lanes. I was behind the bus, so was beholden to stop for it. As often happens, there was a line of cars coming in the other direction, also stopped, although state law permits oncoming traffic to proceed when there is a lane, even a left turn lane, between the bus and the oncoming traffic.
At the head of that line was a Kitsap Transit Access bus. It’s very common to see a vehicle stopped unnecessarily in that situation, holding up any one behind it driven by someone who knows that law. But I wondered if Kitsap Transit buses are required, by law or policy, to stop for an oncoming school bus regardless of the exemption allowed everyone else. Kind of like buses being required to stop at railroad tracks where ordinary folks can proceed without stopping.
The out basket: Sanjay Bhatt, public information officer for Kitsap Transit, replied, “According to our training coordinator, state law does indeed contain an exception to the prohibition on drivers passing (an oncoming) stopped school bus unloading children. Drivers on a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes “need not stop” in this scenario. The law does not say drivers “shall not stop.” In other words, drivers have discretion.
“We don’t have a specific rule on this situation in our operator handbook, nor is there one in the state Commercial Driver License Guide. We train operators to put safety first. While we don’t know which ACCESS operator was driving the vehicle you observed, it’s reasonable to assume that either the operator didn’t know the legal exception or the operator knew the legal exception and chose to err on the side of caution based on what was happening out there on the road.
“We expect our operators to use their common sense and operate safely based on current conditions they encounter.”