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NEWS RELEASES 2005-06

NEWS RELEASES 2005-06 :: AUGUST 31, 2005

SCHOOL BUSES ACROSS THE STATE ARE ROLLING;
PENALTY INCREASES FOR UNLAWFUL PASSING

It's the start of a new school year for North Carolina public schools and with it comes a stiffer penalty for motorists who unlawfully pass stopped school buses. Beginning tomorrow, Sept. 1, the penalty for passing a stopped school bus increases from a Class 2 misdemeanor to a Class I misdemeanor. In addition, violating this law and willfully striking a person causing serious bodily injury is now a Class I felony.

To obtain an accurate picture of the seriousness of motorists' passing stopped school buses, a 1997 task force initiated an annual one-day count of stop-arm violations. Since that initial count, North Carolina school bus drivers have consistently reported that around 2,000 times each day motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus, endangering the lives of public school children.

The most recent count conducted on March 10, 2005, found that 1,957 stop-arm violations were spotted from 13,518 school buses. Violations most often occurred in the afternoon (55 percent), from the front of the bus (74 percent), on the left side of the bus (96 percent), on two lane roads (56 percent), and by passenger cars (66 percent). Even worse, 4 percent of the reported violations occurred on the right side of the bus – where students are loading and unloading.

State Superintendent June Atkinson expressed concern over the consistently high number of stop-arm violations. "Every day in North Carolina 13,500 yellow school buses transport over 700,000 students to and from school. Throughout all these trips, the number one concern of our drivers and school transportation staff is the safety of our public school children. One of the best ways to ensure student safety is for motorists to obey the law."

North Carolina law requires motorists approaching a stopped school bus from any direction to come to a complete stop while the bus is displaying its mechanical stop arm and flashing red stoplights. The motorist must remain stopped until the bus's stop arm has been withdrawn, the flashing red lights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

For the most recent county-by-county school bus stop-arm violations, please go online to www.ncbussafety.org and click on Operation Stop Arm. For local school system information, contact the local school system's transportation office. For statewide information, please contact the NCDPI's Communications Division at 919.807.3450.

About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 107 charter schools serving over 1.5 million students in kindergarten through high school graduation. The agency is responsible for all aspects of the state's public school system and works under the direction of the North Carolina State Board of Education.


For more information:
NCDPI Communications and Information, 919.807.3450.