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school bus stopped
Some Washington drivers either don't know what to do when they approach a stopped school bus or they just don't care. (AP)

Do you know what to do when you see a stopped school bus?

Some Washington drivers either don't know what to do when they approach a stopped school bus or they just don't care.

According to a national survey, over 3,500 bus drivers in 110 districts in Washington state recorded 1,523 violations on May 1, 2013.

Thirty-two of those instances were of cars passing buses on the right side where students enter the bus.

"Passing stopped school buses remains a serious problem," said Randy Dorn, state superintendent of public instruction. "Every violation represents a potential accident and potential injury to a student."

Dorn said extrapolating the data to all 295 districts and for the full school year would result in nearly 550,000 violations.

"That is absolutely unbelievable that that many people are going by these buses," said KIRO Radio's John Curley.

Curley pointed out that this issue is a big part of the state drivers test.

According to the Department of Licensing Washington State Driver Guide:

You must stop for a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing whether it is on your side of the road, the opposite side of the road or at an intersection you are approaching. You are not required to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing when the stopped school bus is traveling in the opposite direction and the roadway:
-has three or more marked traffic lanes,
-is separated by a median, or
-is separated by a physical barrier.
After the school bus red lights have stopped flashing, watch for children along the side of the road and do not proceed until they have completely left the roadway.

"If you're out there and even if it's on a major road and it's a divided highway, still, just stop," pleaded Curley. "Play it safe."

No deaths were reported in stopped school bus incidents in 2011 or 2012, but Dorn said that's a testament to the bus drivers' professionalism.

"They take the safety of our school children very seriously," he said. "I hope these numbers help drivers do the same."

Dorn said that districts have the authority to put cameras in buses to take pictures of violators who can then be ticketed. He urges districts to consider whether installing more cameras would help keep more children safe.

In 29 states that participated in the survey, bus drivers reported 85,279 instances of passing school buses.

Stephanie Klein, MyNorthwest.com Editor
Stephanie joined the MyNorthwest.com team in February 2008. She has built the site into a two-time National Edward R. Murrow Award winner (Best Radio Website 2010, 2012).
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