Share story

School begins this week. Are you certain you know how to drive near stopped school buses?

Eastside police departments have been tweeting a concise diagram to illustrate the state law, with additional advice to slow down near a school bus even when you have the right-of-way.

“If you’re in doubt and you don’t know, go ahead and stop,” said Bellevue police spokesman Seth Tyler.

Scenario 3 on the diagram is especially common in Seattle, which has undergone more than 30 “road diets” that converted four lanes to three, mainly to make walking safer.  Never pass a stopped school bus using the two-way left turn lane. Even in wider five-lane streets, drivers in the center turn lane must stop rather than pass, Redmond police warn.

Most Read Stories

Unlimited Digital Access. $1 for 4 weeks

In Bellevue, Scenario 2 applies to crosstown arterials such as 148th Avenue Southeast, said Tyler. Always stop when driving the same direction as a bus with its red paddle out.  Tyler said that on a road like 148th, which has planted medians, drivers presume a child wouldn’t cross that sort of street  — “but any time a bus stops, there’s a potential for kids to be running out in traffic,” Tyler said.  Seattle has some four-lane routes, notably North 85th Street, where the same rule applies.

On the other hand, it is legal to continue driving in the lane next to a bus, if there’s a median or other barrier, and the car is going the opposite way, as in Scenario 4.

Bellevue published the graphics as public-safety reminders, and not in response to a specific tragedy, Tyler said. “We do routinely get complaints from bus drivers, of drivers failing to stop for these paddles,” he said.

Some local school districts such as Marysville and Highline have automated enforcement cameras. The Bethel district in Pierce County issued 30 citations a month for $394 each when its program started with five buses in 2014-15.  Seattle police strictly enforce 20 mph school zones using speed cameras or lurking officers.

So far this year, 1,298 pedestrians have been hit by vehicles in Washington state; 113 were age 14 or younger, state data say.