Tag Archives: school buses

RE: 2 TV reports on passing school buses with red lights flashing

The in basket: KIRO-TV news did a segment recently on the Highline School District’s deployment of cameras on the sides of its school buses to capture images of drivers who ignore the flashing red lights and extended STOP paddle when a bus is loading or off-loading children. Costly citations are to follow.

A good thing, I would say, especially noting a subsequent TV report of a white SUV filmed while  actually passing a Bethel School District bus on the right without slowing down as three children walked toward the bus. It nearly hit them. Such indifference to student safety is inexcusable and a hunt is on for that driver.

Surveys suggest that drivers ignore the flashing lights and extended paddles of school buses hundreds of times each school day throughout the state. I was dubious about a claim that many of those infractions involve passing the bus on the right (most of those are bicyclists, I think) but the video of the Bethel incident shows that it does happen with cars, as far-fetched as it sounds.

But, back to KIRO’s report on Highline’s plans. It made what I consider a significant mistake. TV news being what it is, desperate for an image to fill our screens, KIRO chose one that misrepresents the law requiring drivers to stop for the buses.

It depicted cars streaming past an extended STOP paddle, visible on the right of the screen, going in the opposite direction of the bus. In between, is an empty lane.

The clear implication was that the drivers shown were violating the law. But they weren’t.

State law says “The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with three or more marked traffic lanes need not stop upon meeting a school bus which is proceeding in the opposite direction and is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging school children.”

You have to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and its STOP paddle out only if you’re following the bus, or going the opposite direction on a two-lane road.

At least legally that’s the case. As a practical matter, you’ll probably have to stop because some driver ahead of you usually stops and there’s usually no way around that car or the cars lined up behind it. So many drivers are unsure of the law that you almost never get to exercise it unless you’re first or nearly first in line.

So I hate to see the media further decrease the chances that drivers will do what’s permitted. School bus routes are crafted so drivers can’t and don’t let students cross more than one lane to the left of the bus anyway.

Stream of buses leaving Woodward school a problem – until it wasn’t

The in basket: A couple I know mentioned at a recent social function that they’d seen something upsetting on Bainbridge Island.

People in reflective jackets had stopped traffic on Sportsmen’s Club Road one afternoon so a string of school buses could all get out of the parking lot of Woodward Middle School at one time.

Two days later, though, the husband e-mailed me to say he’d gone to watch it again and no longer had any objection to it. “They stopped the traffic at 1:57 p.m. At 2:01 they had let out 17 loaded school buses. So I guess they got things under control.”

Still, I thought I’d give it a look myself and ask if the city police had OKd it – or suggested it.

The out basket: I talked with Robin Hanley and Susan Stricker, the two school employees wielding the stop sign paddles the day I was there.

Robin said she’s gotten an obscene earful from the occupants of a moving van she’d stopped a few days earlier, and a teenager had ignored her on another occasion. So she was paying attention to how long vehicles had had to wait.

That Thursday it took her two minutes and 40 seconds to get all the buses on the road. She claimed 18 buses, but three of them, smaller ones, came out before they stopped traffic.

There is good reason to avoid Sportsmen’s Club Road when the buses leave Woodward on school days, but it isn’t the procession of buses.

The real problem is the stream of cars driven by parents who picked up their children in the next parking lot south. Most of them head toward New Brooklyn Road, where they must wait at a permanent stop sign for cross-traffic to clear. It backed up so badly, I was doubtful there would be enough room for the large buses for which Robin and Sue ran interference to get out of their parking lot.  The 15th bus was barely able to get into traffic.

About then, the stream of parents’ cars eased and the buses – and the backed up traffic behind them – were able to move along pretty quickly.

Deputy Chief Jeff Horn of Bainbridge police told me, “I have spoken to a few of my officers who have been around a few years and none of them remember this issue coming up (in regards to suggesting the tactic to the school). I did speak to the school transportation department who stated they do not recall specifically discussing this with the police department.

“The school did say the process was implemented because the inability to get the buses out (due to the traffic) which caused issues getting the children home on time.  If they were to ask me my opinion, I’d agree with their assessment and solution.”