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State law allows passing of school buses in parking lots

(AP)

It’s time to talk school buses and safety again.

To turn or not to turn in front of a school bus

Trooper Rick Johnson hit me up last week asking me about school bus rules when buses are stopped in parking lots. He was confused as to whether he could pass the bus or maneuver around it when dropping off kids in parking lots.

I wasn’t aware that some schools do drop off kids in business parks or other places. The buses Rick was asking about were from the Chief Leschi School District in Puyallup. The district said it drops off kids in generic business lots occasionally, on late routes or after some sports practices.

According to state law, when buses are stopped in parking lots or what is called “off the roadway,” buses can only use four way flashers when they stop. The Leschi School District confirmed that in its reading of the law as well.

“The bus cannot legally stop any traffic while in a parking lot,” according to the district’s transportation director.

So to answer Rick’s question, it sounds like drivers can pass school buses when they have four way flashers on while in parking lots. That said, if there are kids around, you better be very careful. Be sure to check the conditions closely before passing.

The basic rules for passing school buses are really simple, but there is one situation that continues to generate confusion. We all know that we cannot pass a bus with its flashers on when we are going the same direction. We certainly cannot pass on the right. We all know that we must stop, even in the opposite direction, when facing a bus with its flashers on at an intersection. If there is a median or a physical barrier, you do not have to stop in the opposite direction.

But here is the situation that keeps confusing people: You do not have to stop in the opposite direction when you are on a road with three or more marked lanes, and that includes roads with two travel lanes separated by a turn lane.

For example, in my area, 35th Avenue Southeast in Everett, there is one lane going north and one lane going south with a turn lane in the middle. If a bus is stopped with its flashers on going north and I’m going south, I do not have to stop. A lot of drivers stop unnecessarily in this situation.

The bottom line is always be careful, watch your speed, and use common sense.

Check out more of Chris’ Chokepoints.