NEWS RELEASES 2008-09
SPECIAL TRANSPORTATION HOTLINE ACTIVATED;
PUBLIC CAN REPORT SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS
FOR VIOLATING STATE LAWS
School bus passengers and drivers wanting to report school bus drivers for violating the state's seat belt and cell phone use laws can now call a special "Transportation Hotline" established by the NC Department of Public Instruction. Stickers stating the laws along with the hotline phone number are being placed inside each school bus and activity bus in the Cabarrus, Winston-Salem/Forsyth and Guilford County School Systems as well as the Mooresville Graded School District as part of a pilot project.
State law requires that a school bus driver wear his or her seat belt while operating the school bus. Another state law, just a year old, prohibits the use of cell phones or related technology while operating a school bus. Violations of either of these statutes not only result in fines, but can compromise student safety.
The NCDPI's Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham got the idea from the state of Alabama following the investigation of a November 2006 crash in Huntsville in which four students were killed when their school bus plunged nose-first from an overpass. "The school bus driver was ejected from the bus well before the crash, because he was not wearing his seat belt," Graham said. "Had he remained in the driver's seat, he might have retained control of the vehicle and those four students might be alive today. School bus drivers must realize that their decision of whether or not to buckle up impacts not only their safety but the very lives of their student passengers."
The same problem was brought home to North Carolina just last year when a Guilford County school bus driver died of injuries sustained in a crash in which she – the sole occupant of the bus - was thrown from the driver's seat. According to Graham, "The report from the Highway Patrol stated that the driver was not properly wearing her seat belt."
The NCDPI Director of School Support Ben Matthews said that the agency is equally concerned about keeping school bus drivers focused on their job and not distracted by using cell phones while driving. "Not only is it a state law, but because of the tremendous responsibility of keeping students safe, it just makes sense that school bus drivers should not engage in any external activities that might be distracting," said Matthews.
Calls to the Transportation Hotline will come in to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's Transportation Services Division where they will be referred to transportation supervisors in the appropriate school system. The Department plans to monitor the effectiveness of the program during the first weeks of school before expanding it to other school systems.
For more information, please contact the NCDPI's Communications Division at 919.807.3450.
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About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 126 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 Communication and Information Division, 919.807.3450.