RALEIGH – The message is clear from state authorities – if you are a behind a school bus with its stop arm out and lights flashing – stay there. The State Highway Patrol will be aggressively enforcing stop arm violations and other traffic violations in and around through Fri., Oct. 25.
The Patrol expects Operation Stop Arm will decrease violations and reduce school bus collisions.
Across the state, troopers will be working school zones and others will be following the buses. Troopers will be driving marked and unmarked patrol cars during the operation.
The enforcement effort comes as a 17-year-old was killed near Salisbury last week when crossing a road after leaving a bus and being struck by a car. The bus had its stop arm out and its lights flashing.
“We must protect our children from traffic dangers,” said Colonel Bill Grey, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol in a press release. “The Highway Patrol will conduct this school bus campaign simultaneously in all North Carolina counties cracking down on stop arm violations. Motorists who try to pass a stopped school bus will be charged with the violation.”
Passing a stopped school bus is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, a person will receive five driving points on their driver’s license and is subject to fines up to $200. Passing a stopped school bus is a Class I felony if the driver strikes an individual and a Class H felony should the violation result in a death.
“We must ensure our children’s safety as they travel to and from school,” said Frank Perry, secretary of the Department of Public Safety. “A child’s life should never be put in danger just to save a minute or two during a daily commute. That’s why we’re going to make sure people know the law as well as the consequences of breaking it.”
During a one-day count in 2012, North Carolina school bus drivers witnessed 3,196 vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses at 2,299 bus stops. These violations occurred while the buses were stopped, stop arm extended with flashing red lights, and children were in the process of embarking or disembarking buses.
To assist law enforcement agencies across, cameras have been installed on the outside of some school buses. Under the Nicholas Adkins Safety Act, video evidence can be used to prosecute stop arm violations. The act increases the penalty for those who strike and kill a child when they pass a stopped school bus. The Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act is named after the Rockingham County teen that died when a driver did not stop for a school bus that had stopped and extended its stop arm.
For further information concerning school bus safety and illegal passing please visit the Department of Public Instruction’s school bus safety web site at http://www.ncbussafety.org/.