Tickets for Passing a Stopped School Bus
To protect children who use a school bus, Washington state has rules in place that drivers must follow. A driver must stop when a school bus emits a signal, usually visual, and wait until the signal ends before they may proceed. These tickets generally have hefty fines upwards of $500.00.
Under Washington law RCW 46.61.370, stopping for a school bus is required when the motorist is driving in the same direction as the bus, even if there are more than one lane going the same direction. For a driver is heading the opposite direction of the school bus, they must stop on a two lane road (one in each direction). However, on a three lane road (one each direction plus a center turn lane), or with two or more lanes each direction a vehicle moving in the opposite direction to the bus need not stop, or if a two-lane roadway is divided by barrier.
Bus drivers will use red stop signs and lights to signal such a stop to load or offload children.
Under RCW 46.37.190 (2) “Every school bus and private carrier bus shall, in addition to any other equipment and distinctive markings required by this chapter, be equipped with a “stop” signal upon a background not less than fourteen by eighteen inches displaying the word “stop” in letters of distinctly contrasting colors not less than five and nine-tenths inches high, and shall further be equipped with signal lamps mounted as high and as widely spaced laterally as practicable, which shall be capable of displaying to the front two alternately flashing red lights located at the same level and to the rear two alternately flashing red lights located at the same level and these lights shall have sufficient intensity to be visible at five hundred feet in normal sunlight.”
Bus drivers may also use yellow lights to indicate they are preparing to stop, or are preparing to deploy the lights and stop sign. Many drivers are cited because they tried to “beat” the red lights because they did not want to wait. Bus drivers are trained to be on the lookout for cars and use caution when making pickups and drop-offs, but the duty remains on other drivers to pay attention and obey the law to avoid an accident and keep children safe.
Do not begin moving again until after the stop sign paddle retracts and the flashing red lights turn off.
School Bus Camera Tickets
Passing a school bus tickets are often issued by an officer who witnessed the incident, but they may be issued based on video from a school bus camera under RCW 46.61.370 and RCW 46.63.180. School bus video tickets are not made a part of the registered owner’s driving record under RCW 46.52.101 and 46.52.120, and are like other camera tickets and are processed in the same manner as parking infractions. Which means that they are not reported to insurance. If you have been ticketed by a school bus camera in Washington there may be a valid defense available to you.
Like other camera ticket, a school bus camera tickets is issued to the first named registered owner. This means that even if someone else was driving your car you could receive a school bus camera ticket in the mail.
It is a good reminder that these fines are not the only consequences that can result from failing to obey the school bus law. If a driver attempts to pass a school bus, he or she could strike a child who is crossing the street after leaving the bus. The child can suffer from significant injuries, leading to death. Children are at the greatest risk of injury or death when they are boarding or leaving their school bus. Most children between the ages of 5 to 7 suffer severe injuries or even die when struck by a car.
Drivers could face criminal charges in the event of injury or death, in addition to the penalty for failure to stop, depending on the circumstances. A Vehicular Homicide felony charge can lead to up to life in prison and/or up to $50,000 in fines.
The driver could also face a civil action claim from the parents of the child, for the child’s medical expenses, emotional damages, and potential funeral or burial expenses in the event of death.
Any and all information contained herein is for the purposes of providing basic information and should not be relied on as being legal advice. The authors disclaim any and all liability for any reliance on such information. Use of this website does not create an attorney-client relationship. We recommend strongly that you seek professional legal advice directly from a properly retained Washington-licensed attorney or lawyer before relying on any information contained herein.