The State of Washington state has established laws that drivers must follow when following and passing a school bus. 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. The proceeds from these fines go towards Washington’s school safety zone account to promote traffic safety for its students.

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 drivers 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.

What to Do If Your Child Suffers a School Bus Injury

While these laws are in place for a very serious reason, some motorists can fail to stop when a bus is letting children board or leave. If a driver strikes your child when he or she is getting off the bus, it is important to take the following steps.

  • Call 911 and get your child to a hospital as soon as possible. Your child will likely have serious injury and require immediate treatment. Make sure to collect every piece of documentation you can from the hospital.
  • While you are taking your child to the hospital, ask another adult, such as the bus driver, a neighbor, or your spouse, to help you collect important pieces of information. Ask him or her to collect the at-fault driver’s name, contact information, and insurance details, as well as take pictures of the scene and collect the information of any other witnesses.
  • A law enforcement officer will likely visit you to take you and your child’s statement after the accident. Answer the officer’s questions truthfully and completely, and ask for his or her information so that you can collect the report at a later time.

Call the Attorneys with Althauser Rayan Abbarno

For more information or for a free consultation about your injury, call Althauser Rayan Abbarno at (360) 736-1301 or visit