|CHARLOTTE, N.C. (October 18, 2019) – Next week, October 21-25, is National School Bus Safety Week. The National Association for Pupil Transportation estimates that 25 million students ride school buses every school day and this week serves as a reminder for students, parents, teachers and the community to keep school bus safety in the forefront before and after school.
“Far too often motorists blow by stopped school buses – whether in an attempt to pass it before it stops or because they are not familiar with the laws regarding passing school buses from the other side of the road,” said Tiffany Wright, AAA Carolinas spokesperson. “These buses are carrying our most precious cargo and it is important that motorists respect the laws in an effort to keep them safe.”
In preparation, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol began a campaign called “Operation Stop Arm” on October 15. During the campaign, troopers will monitor bus routes in unmarked vehicles at the beginning and end of the school day to cite violators for passing a stopped school bus. Some troopers will also ride on school buses to interact with the students while citing motorists for violations.
In an effort to draw more attention to stopped buses, some states have added extended stop arms to block vehicles from illegally passing. Rather than the standard 18 inches, these new arms will extend anywhere from 4.5 feet to 6.5 feet.
In 2016 in North Carolina there were 930 reported school bus crashes resulting in 781 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the NCDOT. Additionally, NC Highway Patrol said that 3,100 cars pass stopped school buses in NC each year. In South Carolina, there were 443 collisions resulting in 222 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the SCDPS.
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus include a $500 fine and an additional four insurance points, which could increase insurance rates by 80 percent. It’s vital that drivers also slow down and obey the posted speed limit in a school zone – a child’s life could depend on it.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University have partnered to produce a PSA to raise public awareness on school bus safety.
Tips for motorists that encounter a stopped school bus on the roads:
Tips for school bus riders:
For more information on year-long school bus safety tips, see this informative pamphlet from the National Association for Pupil Transportation.