Traffic Q&A: Can you pass school buses at an intersection?

Staff writerSeptember 16, 2013 

Question: I know you are not allowed to pass school buses that are in front of or behind your vehicle when they have their red lights flashing. But what about from the side?

I came up to an intersection where there was a bus stopped and loading children to my left and perpendicular to me.

After stopping at the stop sign, I proceeded across the intersection in front of the bus, and the driver acted like he was going to have a fit. He was waving for me to stop, but I didn’t. Now I’m wondering if I was wrong. — Michael, Tacoma

Answer: There’s nothing in Washington state law that says you have to wait for a loading school bus when you are crossing an intersection in front of or behind it.

As you say, the law applies when you are “overtaking or meeting from either direction any school bus which has stopped on the roadway for the purpose of receiving or discharging any school children.” (See RCW 46.61.370.)

That said, if the driver of a school bus is excited and waving at you to stop, it makes sense to do so. He may see a situation you’re not aware of.

Now that schools are back in session, it’s probably worth reviewing another aspect of Washington’s school bus laws that many readers find confusing or are unaware of. It’s one of our most-asked questions.

Unlike most other states, Washington law does not require you to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing if you’re traveling in the opposite direction on a roadway with more than two marked lanes, including turn lanes.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693

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