A Refresher Course: When to Stop for a School Bus

With school back in session this month, it’s a good time to review when we must stop for school buses that are loading and unloading students. Children don’t always watch traffic and they can make sudden, unexpected moves that put them in danger. Drivers need to be extra cautious whenever children are present, especially when they are boarding and departing from school buses.

Here are the basics for responding to a school bus with flashing lights or an open stop bar. Please note that this info is based on the law for the greater Seattle area. While it may be the same in other cities and states, be sure to check your local laws to for any variations. It is the driver’s responsibility to know applicable laws.

If you are travelling in the same direction as school bus on a two lane roadway, stop and wait. Never pass the bus while lights are flashing or the stop bar is out.

If you are travelling in the same direction as a school bus on a four lane roadway, stop and wait regardless of which lane you are in. Students may cross the road unexpectedly, darting out into your lane.

If you are travelling in the same direction as a school bus and the roadway has a median strip, stop and wait. This applies regardless of the number of lanes.

If you are travelling in the same direction as a school bus and you are in a left turn lane when it stops, stop and wait before turning. Treat the turn lane the same as you would your lane in a four-lane roadway.

If you are approaching a bus from the opposite direction on a two lane roadway, stop and wait.

If you are approaching a bus from the opposite direction on a four lane roadway, you are not required to stop. However, be sure to slow down and be alert for children crossing the road.

If you are approaching a bus from the opposite direction and there is a median strip, you do not have to stop. This applies whether it is a 2 or 4 lane road. However, slow down and watch for children before proceeding.

Here is a handy guide prepared by the City of Bellevue Department of Transportation that visually recaps the law:
City of Bellevue Department of Transportation guide to school bus traffic laws
Sometimes traffic circumstances or roadway design can be confusing. In that case, it’s always best to err on the side of caution—stop and wait when in doubt.

Fines for failing to stop for a school bus with flashing lights or an open stop bar can be as high as $500. More importantly, obeying the law helps keep our children safe.

The Private Client Group wishes you and your family a safe, productive, and engaging school year ahead!

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