School will be starting the final week of August all over the Mid-Columbia, and it's time to refresh those rules for how to driver near, and stop for, school buses. Some are very different, but others are the same.

According to PEMCO Insurance, in their recently published Road 101 series, the rules for drivers who are dealing with a school or public transit bus are surprisingly similar.

For example:

  • When you're driving on a three-lane road (one lane each way, with middle turn lane), and a school bus stops to pick up kids, what does the law say?  You must stop behind bus and wait for flashing red lights to stop, and bus to get underway before you can pass.  With a transit bus, in Washington state, you can legally use the middle lane to carefully pass it. But in Oregon, you can't--it's the same law as school bus.
  • When you're driving on a two-lane road, and a school bus stops on the opposite side of road, do you have to also stop?  If the red lights are flashing and signs deployed? YES.   With a transit bus? NO.
  • If you're on a three, four or more lane road, and school bus is stopped going opposite direction, with red lights, do you also have to stop?  NO.
  • And finally, if a school bus is pulling away from the curb, and you are approaching in the same lane of travel, can you speed up to pass it? If it's a two-OR THREE lane road, the answer is NO.  You cannot speed up and use the middle turn lane to blow by a school bus.  If you're on a four lane road, you can change lanes and pass.  And surprisingly, these same rules apply for public transit buses as well.  Most people just use any part of the road to zip by a Ben Franklin bus. Actually, unless it's four lane, that's not legal.

So now you know what to do, and NOT to do, around buses. Be safe out there!