SCHOOL BUSES ROLL ACROSS THE STATE;
MOTORISTS REMINDED TO WATCH OUT FOR CHILDREN
For the majority of the state's 1.5 million public school students, Monday is the first day of school. To help ensure students make it to and from school safely, motorists are urged to be cautious as school buses stop to pick up or drop off students.
"Student safety is the number one concern of school bus drivers and school transportation staff every year," State Superintendent June Atkinson said. "Every North Carolina motorist should share this priority by stopping for the school bus's flashing red lights and extended stop arm, and watching for students around bus stops."
Statistics show that not every motorist obeys the law where stopped school buses are concerned. During the most recent count conducted on March 13, 2013, 13,346 North Carolina school bus drivers reported that 3,316 vehicles illegally passed their stopped bus. Violations most often occurred from the front of the bus on two lane roads. In the most troubling cases, drivers reported 103 instances where motorists passed the bus on the right side – where students are loading and unloading.
Since 1999, 12 students have been killed boarding or exiting a school bus; and four of those deaths occurred last year alone. North Carolina law requires motorists to stop and remain stopped while the bus has its stop sign and flashing red lights engaged.
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham said, "The most dangerous part of the school bus ride is when students are boarding and exiting the bus. Once students are on the bus, it is by far the safest way for them to travel to and from school."
Motorists who pass a stopped school bus can be charged with a Class I misdemeanor. If they pass a stopped school bus and strike a person, they can be charged with a Class I felony. If that person is killed, the motorist can be charged with a Class H felony. In addition, recently passed legislation (Hasani N. Wesley Students' School Bus Safety Act) imposes a minimum fine of $500, and under certain circumstances, license revocation. North Carolina state law allows photographic evidence to be used in court, and some North Carolina school buses are now outfitted with video cameras.
Motorists obeying traffic laws pertaining to school buses is one way to ensure student safety, but parents also play an integral role. "Let's be honest, kids are often distracted while waiting for the bus or when they are exiting after a long day at school. Since we know that not all motorists stop like they are supposed to, I hope parents continue to remind their children to look both ways before stepping into the roadway. That reminder could save lives," Graham said.
For the most recent county-by-county school bus stop-arm violations, visit www.ncbussafety.org and click on the "Illegal Passing" link under Highway Safety. To view videos of motorists passing stopped school buses, visit the same website and click on the Stop Arm Violation Camera link. Questions regarding local school bus transportation should be directed to the local school district's transportation office.
About the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction:
The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction provides leadership to 115 local public school districts and 160 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.