Once again, school bus stopping rules

The in basket: After the Road Warrior’s most recent discussion of when drivers must  stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop sign extended, Don Payne wrote, “The

Washington Driver’s Guide says ‘You must stop for a school

bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your

side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an intersection you are approaching.’

“The business of the three marked lanes is pretty clear and been gone over a lot,” he said. “I have never heard a discussion or seen an explanation of the third clause -‘or at an intersection you are approaching.’

“I’ve looked in the RCWs and can find no mention or discussion of this clause,” Don wrote. ” Maybe you can add some light.”

The out basket: I have concluded that stopping for a school bus unloading children is unavoidable, even though the law permits a driver going in the opposite direction to proceed if there is a lane, even a left turn lane, between the car and the bus. Twice more since that column appeared, I have seen a cautious driver stop even though he or she didn’t have to, stopping everyone behind the car. 

The phrase Don uncovered puzzled me, since a North Kitsap school transportation official I talked with in preparing the last column went out of her way to say a driver going the opposite direction can complete a turn as long as the car doesn’t pass the extended paddle stop sign on the side of the bus. 

It turns out, says Brad Benfield of the state Department of Licensing, which publishes the driver’s guide, that that third clause refers to traffic on a street CROSSING the one the bus is on. No turn toward the bus that takes the car beyond the bus is legal. Turns away from the bus are OK.

It’s kind of an excess of caution, as the  “lane-in-between” exception also applies to a turner, but the wording makes it clear that a driver on the cross street must abide by the same rules as those on the street the bus is on.

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