School district reminds drivers to not forget bus safety
August 31, 2010
By Laura Geggel
With school back in session, Issaquah’s drivers are once more sharing the road with buses carrying students to and from school.
Some drivers are more patient than others when driving behind buses. Understanding bus safety rules would help everyone on the road, Issaquah School District Transportation Director Jo Porter said.
First and foremost, drivers should slow when they see a bus’ flashing amber lights. When the red lights begin flashing, drivers must stop.
“When buses are stopped on a two-lane road, when the road paddle comes up and the flashing red lights come on the school bus, it is a law they have to stop,” Porter said.
Roads that are three lanes or more are another story.
If a bus stops on a road that is three lanes or more, state law permits cars traveling in the opposite direction to continue driving, unless they are in a turning lane. Vehicles traveling in the same direction of the bus must stop.
Children are only allowed to cross a road that is two lanes or less, meaning that if a road is three lanes or more, then the bus driver must drive the bus to the other side of the street so the child does not cross it.
If a driver runs a bus with red flashing lights, that driver is subject to a $394 fine.
Porter said drivers must give their full attention to children entering or exiting a bus. If they see a car is not stopping, the driver might shout at the student to stop.
“It has happened,” Porter said. “I don’t know if the kids were scared, but it startles the drivers when that happens.”
Some drivers feel frustrated with school buses stopping routinely to pick up or drop off children, Porter said. Although buses might make frequent stops, they help relieve congestion, she said.
Elementary school buses usually have about 75 children on a bus and high school buses can carry about 50 students. Overall, Issaquah buses transport about 9,000 students.
“Each of one these children represents a car,” Porter said. “It seems like we’re congesting the roadway. We are in fact helping the roadway.”
Buses typically have the same schedule every day, so leave earlier or later to avoid school traffic, Porter advised drivers.
Sometimes, school buses will pull off onto a shoulder to drop off students or to allow cars to pass. Porter said she has received calls from drivers asking why school buses can’t pull off on Issaquah-Hobart Road Southeast to let cars pass in the morning.
It’s not so simple, Porter said.
“School buses can’t just pull off,” she said, “It’s got to be a nice large, secure shoulder.”
Cars are not required by law to yield to school buses as they are to Metro Transit buses, meaning it can be hard for school buses to return into traffic.
She added that it is both dangerous and illegal to pass a bus by crossing on a shoulder of a road or by driving into oncoming traffic going the opposite way.
Drivers should also be aware of children waiting at bus stops, walking or riding their bicycles to school. Drivers should be careful in school zones and school parking lots, too.
Laurie Mulvihill, district safety training coordinator, said bus drivers train students about safety rules three times a year.
She added that the Washington State Patrol inspects Issaquah buses twice a year. Most recently, Issaquah’s buses received an outstanding on their review.
Soon, Issaquah will have more buses on the road. Thanks to the voter-approved transportation levy, the district is ordering five new small buses for January 2011 and nine new large buses for August 2011.