The Goldendale Sentinel - Headlines & History since 1879

By Lou Marzeles

Drivers ignoring flashing school bus lights



ROLLING STOP SIGN: Some Goldendale School District bus drivers say vehicles are not stopping when buses are loading and unloading children. The problem is particularly bad this year.

There are some Goldendale drivers who apparently need to be on the very school buses they drive past when the bus's stop paddles are out-you know, the ones with big red stop signs on them?-and its red lights are flashing. Evidently those drivers still don't know how to read.

The stop paddle reads, clearly enough, "Stop." Many school bus drivers are wondering why some drivers don't.

"This is the worst year so far," says Gwen Mosbrucker, exasperated bus driver trainer for the Goldendale School District. "We've had as many drivers going around school buses with their lights flashing already this year than we had all last school year. It's crazy."

Mosbrucker says the violations are downright wanton. "Half of these drivers know very well what they're doing," she says. "The stop paddle is out, the red lights are flashing, children are boarding-and they look me right in the eye and drive around the bus."

Some see the red lights start to flash and then suddenly, and quickly, pull around the bus, apparently believing if they're really fast and go immediately when the lights flash, it somehow makes it not as bad a violation.

But Mosbrucker wonders if they actually understand the danger in running past loading school buses. "This is about safety for the kids," she points out. "They just don't seem to care."

There ought to be a law. Oh, wait, there is. It's illegal to drive past a school bus when it's stopped with flashing red lights and boarding children; it's called a stop paddle violation. School bus drivers can usually get the license numbers of cars that illegally pass them, and they gladly turn them in. And Washington law provides very stiff penalties for drivers who violate that law. Fines start off at $300. One local driver got hit with a $450 fine. She went to court to argue it, evidently convinced it wasn't that big a deal, and seemed indignant when the judge showed not the slightest sympathy for her. Judges tend to get annoyed with people who don't get the big deal about breaking the law, especially when it involves the safety of children.

"It's happening all over town," Mosbrucker states. "Especially on Columbus between the four-way stop light and High Street. It's mostly cars, but there are a lot of trucks doing it, too, big semis."

It could be that some drivers actually don't know the stop paddle law, though familiarity with red lights-especially flashing ones-ought to provide a pretty good clue. But to review, here's how it works:

You must stop for a school bus when the stop paddle is out and the lights are flashing if:

• You are traveling either direction on a two-lane road.

• You are traveling the same direction as the bus and you are on a road with more than two lanes of traffic.

• You are traveling the same direction as the bus on a road with a two-way turn lane-you have to stop even if you're in the turn lane.

• And you must stay stopped until the bus's lights stop flashing.

The fact is that laws requiring vehicles to stop and wait while buses have children loading and unloading are a primary reason why school buses remain the safest way for kids to get to school, by far. Those laws work a lot better when drivers actually observe them.


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