Ignore school bus stop sign, lose $419

School bus with stop sign extendedSeattle drivers who pass a school bus with its red "STOP" paddle extended soon will get $419 tickets, as 120 of Seattle's buses now have cameras to catch you.

Washington state law RCW 46.61.370 says that drivers traveling in the same direction as a school bus must stop when the bus has its paddle extended. The same goes for drivers approaching a bus from the opposite direction on a two-lane road. (Multi-lane roads are exempt.)

Last week I was riding with my son when a school bus approached us going the other way and turned on its red flashing lights. "Do I have to stop?" he asked. I said no – the bus was nearly upon us, still moving fairly fast, and its paddle wasn't yet extended.

It seems I was right. The law says a school bus must be stopped and its stop sign must be "in operation" before other motorists are required to halt.

However, drivers should fall on the side of caution. Had that bus been moving slower or if it were stopped, paddle or no paddle, it's safer to stop.

Despite Washington's law, nearly 600 vehicles passed stopped Seattle school buses last year, according to The Seattle Times.

Young kids enter a school bus stopped on pavementSchool officials hope that high-resolution enforcement cameras and the risk of a $419 fine will improve lawful driving and student safety. Besides Seattle, other school districts using cameras include Bethel, Highline, and Mercer Island.

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