When to stop for a school bus
Knowing when 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.
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.
Tips 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.