Letter to the Editor: Stop Sign on the Bus Means STOP

A Redmond mother says many drivers are not obeying passing laws around school buses on Avondale Road.

My kids unload off the bus on part of the 4-lane section of Avondale Road in unincorporated King County. Year after year I am amazed at how many cars following the bus will continue to pass the bus after the bus has stopped and the stop sign is extended. In fact, I have seen several cases where cars will pull out from behind the bus and go around it after the bus has stopped.

What those drivers may not realize is our bus driver is writing down their license plate numbers and they can expect to receive a ticket in the mail for $394! Last week alone she caught 7-8 drivers including 2 in one day at our bus stop. Bus drivers have the right to fill out a form to send in for the police to contact the registered owner(s) of the car. You can be sure our bus driver is filling out those forms!

According to this article in the Puget Sound Business Journal, King County has now contracted with a service to add cameras on the buses to catch drivers who pass the bus once the stop sign has been extended. Personally, I think it's a great idea and definitely needed considering the number of infractions I have seen at my stop alone.

Please slow down and pay attention when you are following a bus. A child's life is not worth the extra minutes you are saving by making an illegal pass.

—Deb Zimmerman, Redmond

dorimonsonfan October 20, 2012 at 07:02 PM
So there are two lanes in each direction on avondale, and if the kids are exiting onto the sidewalk from the right lane on the right side of the bus, it is illegal for traffic moving in the same direction to pass the bus in the other open lane on the left? That seems silly. Isn't that the who reason for having two lanes in each direction, so people can continue on their way despite busses stopping ever two blocks? As long as the kids are staying on the sidewalk and not jay-walking I don't see the danger here.
Caitlin Moran October 20, 2012 at 10:10 PM
Hi dorimonsonfan, from what I was taught in driver's ed and from what the state law appears to lay out, it is indeed illegal to pass a school bus in the other open lane. The only exception, from my reading, is when you're passing a school bus in the opposite direction on a divided highway or a roadway with 3 or more lanes. Full RCW here: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.370
dorimonsonfan October 20, 2012 at 11:18 PM
I was wrong. There are three lanes of traffic going each way on avondale. Two for cars, one for bicycles. Since the busses always stop in the bike lane, there is an extra buffer lane between the bus and the far left lane. Drivers should at least be able to proceed with caution in the very left lane. This is one of those laws that is so silly you have to wonder if it is just designed to bring in a bunch of cash at $400 per chunk so they can fund more dangerous, confusing traffic circles and racoon overpasses. If they were serious about the safety aspect of it why is it not a ding on your traffic record?
GBuhlman October 21, 2012 at 04:39 AM
The bus is not stopping "in the bike lane". The bike lane is 5 feet wide and the bus is 10 feet wide. So the bus is stopping in the bike land and the right lane. The reason why the law is written this way is because kids getting off the bus may then cross in front of the bus to cross the road. There is no way that traffic coming behind the bus could see the kids until they hit them. You could argue that for this specific bus stop on Avondale there is no reason for kids to be crossing to the other side of Avondale, but do you really want to leave the interpretation of when it makes sense to obey the RCW up to individual drivers? Do you trust all drivers on the road behind and beside you to make the right call? What about if you had kids who took school buses (which I assume you don't or else you would not have any problem with stopping for 20 seconds behind a school bus).
dorimonsonfan October 21, 2012 at 05:49 AM
Why in the world would a kid "cross in front of the bus to cross the road" on avondale?" With a planting strip and two lanes going 40 in the other direction plus a bike lane that would be suicide.
GBuhlman October 21, 2012 at 06:45 AM
You are advocating that each driver should be decide that the RCW does not apply to their current situation and ignore it. Good to know. I hope you still feel the same when you have kids who are walking or riding their bikes on our roads. Me, I am not so confident that every driver will make the right decision every time. So I am happy that we have the RCW and that our law enforcement agencies are enforcing it and that Ms. Zimmerman's kids' school bus driver is helping them to do so. The RCW was not written for Avondale road. It was written for the entire state. On other similar roads in our state the bus may be stopping right before a crosswalk and the kids getting off will cross in front of the bus on the crosswalk. There are probably even roads in our state where there are 10 miles between crosswalks and school budgets do not allow dropping off every kid on the right side of the street. Should those kids die so you can get to Starbucks 20 seconds faster? I grew up in a rural area and took the bus to and from elementary school. Coming home I got off the bus and crossed in front to get to my house. My bus driver (Bob Holley) took down licenses. I'm alive. Relax a little and while you are waiting those 20 seconds, be happy that some kid somewhere else in the state is alive. I am sure even you would agree that waiting 20 seconds behind a school bus once in a while is worth a kid's life. Feel free to embarrass yourself further by disagreeing though.
GBuhlman October 21, 2012 at 08:18 AM
You have accomplished the goal I set out for you.
Melissa Rogers October 21, 2012 at 05:35 PM
dorimonsonfan October 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Link above ^ more than anything brings into question if it is safe for 86 year olds to be behind the wheel. Maybe after age 70 or so there should be an annual driving ability test to maintain the privilege to drive.
Catherine Wittel October 21, 2012 at 08:12 PM
I think the school bus puts out the stop sign so that the children can cross the street safely. A school bus, when it stops, creates a crosswalk so to speak. I've noticed most bus drivers do retract the stop signs as quickly as is safe. Of note: It also drives me nuts when I am trying to get somewhere and I get behind a bus (arghhh!!), but that is the price I pay for living in civilization where I have to be considerate of others. I guess if I lived in a cave by myself somewhere I could do whatever the heck I wanted. LOL!
Melissa Rogers October 22, 2012 at 06:58 AM
Okay, fine, here's another one: http://www.theprovince.com/mobile/news/top-stories/injured+driver+passed+schoolbus/7378036/story.html


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