Traffic Q&A: Do school bus rules apply to other child care transportation?

Question: I’ve seen a yellow bus that looks like a public school bus making stops outside a private day care center.

The driver puts out the “Do not pass” sign and turns on the bus’s flashers. Traffic stops until the bus moves on.

My question is: Can any business that deals with children run a “school bus,” and do all the usual traffic restrictions apply, even though it’s not a school? -- Don, Fircrest

Answer: The definition of “school bus” in Washington law specifically excludes private buses used in the transportation of children to private schools and private school activities.

However, according to Alan Jones, director of student transportation at the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, private schools are allowed to use the loading light system that’s standard equipment on public school buses.

“The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction does not oversee private school transportation systems, nor does any other state government agency, except for the Department of Licensing, for licensing the drivers and vehicles,” Jones said.

Many larger private schools operate their own yellow bus systems and utilize the loading light system in the same manner as public school buses.

“Many of them provide excellent training for their drivers in the proper operation,” Jones said. “However, that is something they are doing on their own initiative.

“Frankly, the question of whether a day care could operate a school bus and use the loading light system is not clearly covered by any law that I am aware of,” Jones said.

Jones said it’s possible the vehicle stopping at the private day care is a Head Start or Early Childhood Education Assistance Program (ECEAP) bus operated by a school district.

“Since the parents are often working, the kids get dropped off at a day care for the other half of their day,” he said.

Rob Carson: 253-597-8693

Follow more of our reporting on Most popular Traffic Q&A topics

See all 10 stories