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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Eye On Boise

Of colors, buses, and ‘glossy yellow’…

Little-known fact: When a school bus is decommissioned, state law requires that all school bus markings be “obliterated” and its paint color be changed, before it can run on state highways. A state trooper in Coeur d’Alene recently ticketed someone for not doing that. “It was still school bus color, and they wrote ‘em a ticket,” said Kootenai County Sheriff Ben Wolfinger.

But when the officer was preparing to go to court, it was discovered that Idaho’s state law still referred to the color of school buses as “school bus chrome,” a name that goes back to the 1930s. “School buses haven’t changed color,” Wolfinger said. “That color has now changed names.” It’s now officially known as “glossy yellow, federal standard 595a, color number 13432.” The trooper contacted Wolfinger, and he contacted his local senator, Senate Education Chairman John Goedde, R-Coeur d’Alene, to work on a bill to update the state law.

“It doesn’t require any buses to be painted, it’s not going to be any cost to any school district,” Wolfinger said. “It’s just to update the law to reflect the current name of the color.” However, when the bill came before the Senate Education Committee this afternoon, Sen. Monty Pearce, R-New Plymouth, noted that its statement of purpose said, “It will NOT require any buses to be painted.” Yet the existing law that was being amended requires exactly that – it’s all about how decommissioned school buses must be “painted a color other than” the one in question to run on state highways, plus have their school bus markings removed. The committee decided to wait on introducing the bill, to clarify the matter.

Wolfinger said he understood the confusion, as it’s “one of those obscure laws.” But, he said, “You don’t want somebody feigning a school bus.” School buses are subject to some unique traffic rules, including being able to stop traffic while they load students, having to stop at railroad crossings and so forth. “There are a lot of things that go with school buses,” Wolfinger said. Plus, he said, he wouldn’t want someone out masquerading as a school bus driver and trying to pick up unsuspecting kids.

“We probably don’t need to remove it from the books,” he said. So he’ll work with Goedde to clarify the bill’s statement of purpose.

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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