School bus safety rules for motorists
School bus safety rules for motorists
Posted on 11/05/2018
School bus safety rules for motorists

Washington state is known nationwide for its outstanding pupil transportation program, and almost half of Washington’s public school students ride school buses to and from school every day.

Nearly 9,000 Puyallup School District students take the bus to school regularly.

Washington state student transportation laws are governed by RCW 28a.160, Student Transportation, and RCW 46.61, Rules of the Road.

Knowing when to stop and when not to stop for a school bus is critical to student and motorist safety.

In Washington, all motorists traveling in the same direction as a school bus must stop when the bus' stop sign “paddle” is extended and its red lights are flashing. Drivers traveling in the opposite direction must stop on two-lane roads but not if the roadway has three or more lanes, including turn lanes.

Flashing red lights, a retractable red “STOP” paddle, and a crossing arm in front of the bus signal that the bus is either loading or unloading students. Yellow flashing lights on the front and back indicate a bus is about to stop to load or unload students, so motorists should slow down and be prepared to stop.

As a general rule, a driver should not get any closer than 20 feet to a school bus that has stopped with red lights flashing. It is safe to proceed once the lights stop flashing. 

Bus safety diagram



















The following are examples of when motorists, by law, must stop for a school bus: 

Two-lane road 

If a school bus comes to a stop on a two-lane road where there is one lane of traffic moving in each direction, traffic behind the bus and motorists traveling in the opposite direction must both stop. 

Three-lane road

On three-lane roads, where there is one lane of traffic moving in each direction and a center turn lane, the vehicles behind the bus and those in the turn lane traveling the same direction as the bus must stop.

Vehicles traveling in the opposite direction can continue without stopping, including a vehicle in the center turn lane that is turning in front of the bus 

Four-lane road

When a roadway has four or more lanes with at least two of the lanes going in the opposite direction, only the vehicles in lanes traveling the same direction as the school bus need to stop for the red flashing school bus lights. 

For example, if a bus is stopped on Meridian Street in the right lane on the way up the hill, all vehicles traveling in the same direction behind it, both in the same lane as the bus and in the adjacent lane immediately next to the bus, must stop. Motorists driving down the hill in the opposite direction of the bus do not need to stop but should proceed with caution.

Tip to remember

The flashing red lights, “STOP” paddle, and crossing arm control the traffic lane that the school bus is in and the lane directly next to it.

Fines for drivers ignoring school bus red lights can be $400 or more.