Johnston County Schools will open on Monday and 265 school buses will be on the roads locally. In North Carolina, over 14,000 school buses travel our highways daily transporting children to and from school. Most motorists that meet school buses on the state’s highways actually stop as required by North Carolina law. However some do not. The results can be tragic.
Since 1999, thirteen children in North Carolina have been struck and killed while loading and/or unloading from a stop school bus. School buses are easy to spot. They typically are painted yellow with the words “School Bus” printed in large type on their front and rear as well as being equipped with alternately flashing red lights on the front and rear. Yet despite these distinguishable traits, motorists still fail to properly stop.
According to the Department of Public Instruction, a total of 3,153 vehicles across the state passed stopped school buses on a single day in 2014. Despite that number, school buses are the safest mode of transportation for getting children back and forth to school. Statistics show that students are about 50 times more likely to arrive at school alive if they take the bus than if they drive themselves or ride with friends. More surprisingly, a child is much safer riding the bus than being driven by a parent.
Through the years, the penalties for those who violate the law, have become more stringent. Under North Carolina law, drivers going either direction must stop when a school bus is stopped to let children off unless it is on a highway divided by a median or a four or more lane road with a center turning lane. Drivers are to remain stopped until the bus has completed dropping the children off and begun to move again. Drivers who are convicted of passing a stopped school bus face a $500 fine and 5-points on their driver’s license. A driver who passes a stopped school bus and strikes someone will face a Class I felony and be fined a minimum of $1,000. The penalty increases to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if someone dies.
In an effort to promote traffic safety around North Carolina schools, school buses and school bus stops, the Highway Patrol is reminding motorists to be aware of the increase of school buses across the state.
“As we begin the school year, our Troopers will be closely monitoring school buses. Our number one goal is to ensure the safety of the public but particularly our children,” said Colonel Bill Grey, Commander of the State Highway Patrol. “To accomplish this goal, we must work together to keep our school children safe and to educate all drivers on the importance of school bus safety.”