Troopers aim to make roads safe for school buses
Posted October 19, 2009
Raleigh, N.C. — For some, the death of a 6-year-old girl in August brings poignancy and urgency to the state Highway Patrol's annual campaign to get drivers to stop for school buses.
First-grader Ashley Ramos-Hernandez had gotten off her school bus and was crossing North Hills Drive when she was hit by a Jeep on Aug. 19. The Jeep's 83-year-old driver, Geraldine Dietz, said she didn't see the bus's stop arm or flashing lights, although witnesses said they were working.
Parent Latoya Lugo said she got so angry about drivers passing her children's stopped bus that she began videotaping them.
"I scream at them, wave my arms. Nobody listens," Lugo said. "The bus driver will blow the horn. They just keep going."
"Those are my kids, and I'm worried about my kids getting on and off the bus," she added.
At 11 a.m. Monday, state troopers will launch a weeklong Operation Stop Arm. Troopers will patrol school zones and follow buses to crack down on drivers who don't stop for buses.
Troopers said drivers need to be more aware of school buses.
"I think a lot of times, it's just not paying attention," Sgt. Jeff Gordon, with the state Highway Patrol, said. "People fly by, and when you stop them sometimes, they either did not realize that they ran the school bus, and some people are not aware that the lights were emitting and simply went by."
State law requires drivers to stop for a bus on a two-lane road. Drivers on both sides of a four-lane road have to stop if it doesn't have a median or turning lane.
Drivers on the other side of the road of a stopped school can pass only on a four-lane road with a turning lane or median. Then, only drivers behind the bus have to stop.
Drivers who pass a school bus will get 5 points added to their license.
Starting Dec. 1, a new state law makes it an automatic felony if a driver kills someone while passing a stopped school bus.