SCHOOL BUSES ROLL ACROSS THE STATE;
MOTORISTS REMINDED TO WATCH OUT FOR CHILDREN
For the majority of the state's almost 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 strongly urged to be especially cautious as school buses stop to pick up or drop off students.
"Every day in North Carolina nearly 14,000 yellow school buses transport over 790,000 students to and from school. The number one concern of school bus drivers and school transportation staff is the safety of their young passengers," State Superintendent June Atkinson said. "We need for every North Carolina motorist to make student safety a top priority by exercising a high level of vigilance while school buses are on the roads."
In a survey released this month by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, a one-day count by 100,000 school bus drivers across the country showed that more than 88,000 vehicles illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day, with 3,200 of those instances in North Carolina.
During the most recent count conducted on March 21, 2012, 13,830 North Carolina school bus drivers reported that 3,200 vehicles illegally passed their stopped school bus. Violations most often occurred from the front of the bus on two lane roads. In the most troubling cases, drivers reported 82 instances where motorists passed the bus on the right side – where students are loading and unloading.
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 and, if that person is struck and killed, the motorist can be charged with a Class H felony. North Carolina state law allows photographic evidence to be used in court, and some North Carolina school buses are now outfitted with video cameras.
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 it's frustrating that the numbers of motorists disobeying this law remains consistently high. "People need to realize that the school bus is on the road for children and we need to be especially careful when driving near that bus. I can't imagine living with the burden of hitting a child because I wasn't paying attention."
Since 1999, motorists have killed eight students as they were getting on or off a school bus. "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" 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. Questions regarding local school bus transportation should be directed to the local school district'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 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.