School buses and the five-car-delay rule


The in basket: I came across a year-old inquiry from Ward Starring of Chico Way recently on the subject of school buses and whether they have to comply with the state law requiring vehicles delaying more than five others on a two-lane highway to pull over and let them pass.

He had been stuck behind Central Kitsap school bus No. 66 on Chico Way on April 30 last year, he wrote at the time, and he could see in his rear-view mirror that he was among at least two dozen drivers crawling behind the bus as it stopped and boarded children.

“That bus never once pulled to the shoulder to let traffic pass,” he said. It traveled all the way to the Newberry/Chico Way intersection, where it waited to turn. 

Previously, he’d often seen buses there pull over to let traffic go past, he said.

“Whether that was just a polite move or required by law, it reduced frustration from drivers who then had to contend with the almost impossible task of merging into traffic at the Newberry Hill/ Chico Way intersection,” he said.

The out basket: School buses are not exempted from that law, which 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.”

It defines a slow vehicle as “one which is proceeding at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place.” Doing the speed limit isn’t a defense.

It’s a hard law to enforce, though the State Patrol lately has kicked off the vacation season with news releases reminding motorists, presumably motor home drivers mostly, of the law. There also is a discussion of it as regards traffic on newly busy, two-lane Highway 101 on Josh Farley’s Kitsap Crime and Justice blog on this Web site and printed in Tuesday’s Kitsap Sun.

Trooper Krista Hedstrom of the local State Patrol office says, “Although school buses are required by law to pull off and let traffic by, they also need to do so safely, especially considering they are transporting children. Drivers are reminded to please be patient when behind a school bus.  They may not always have a safe location to pull over.”  

The pull-off place must not only be safe, it has to be wide enough for the bus (or motor home or whatever) to get all its wheels outside the edge line. Parking with wheels over the edge line is an infraction, as is traveling slowly partly or fully on the shoulder.

There seem to be lots of places along Chico Way wide enough for a bus to pull over. This long after the fact, it may not be possible to determine who was driving the bus that day, but David Beil of CK schools’ community affairs office said he’ll pass the complaint on to the district’s transportation department.

4 thoughts on “School buses and the five-car-delay rule

  1. “Doing the speed limit is not a defense.” Excuse me? Are you telling me that it is required by law that I pull over to let people exceeding the speed limit pass???? I’m open-jawed with wonder. How is that justified by anyone?

  2. So what about those worker driver busses that stop in the middle of the lane, when there is more than adequate room to pull completely off the road when loading and unloading.

  3. It never fails that I get a line of cars behind me driving up Seabeck Hiway at 3:30 in the afternoon while doing 40mph (the speed limit is 35mph) Sometimes cars pass me on the last straight part before the limit goes to 50mph but I end up sitting behind them as they wait to turn left on Holly Road. Pass me all you want but I’m not pulling over for you unless you’ve got flashing lights and a siren.

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