WRAL Investigates

Red-light cameras capture dozens of Wake school buses

Posted November 19, 2014
Updated November 20, 2014

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— Each day, about 800,000 public school students across the state take the bus to school. Parents expect school bus drivers to obey the rules, but WRAL Investigates found that doesn't always happen.

WRAL Investigates uncovered red-light citations involving Wake County Public School System buses from Raleigh’s SafeLight program. Since last year, dozens of buses have been snapped running red lights, even though only a handful of Raleigh’s intersections are monitored.

Some of the buses went through the intersections as late as two, three and four seconds after the light turned red while driving 10 mph over the speed limit.

“It’s extremely concerning,” said parent Jason Goodman, who has three children in the Wake County school system. “I expect the driver to follow the rules of the road ... If I put my child on the bus and I see pictures of a bus clearly running a red light by several seconds, they’re putting my kids in danger."

In September, bus 1102 wasn't even half way through the intersection when it was snapped going nearly 10 mph over the speed limit.

Bus 896 received two red light violations (violation 1 | violation 2) in a two-week period in May. Both photos were taken at South Blount Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in downtown Raleigh about two seconds after the light turned red. The school system couldn’t determine if students were riding at the time, but a school spokesman said the bus driver is no longer with the system.

WRAL Investigates also found several cases where other vehicles had plenty of time to stop, but not the bus. On May 30, a car driving in the right lane ahead of bus 896 was able to stop, but the bus kept going. On March 31, bus 591 ran a red light, blowing past a Lucas Transportation bus that did manage to stop. No students were on board at the time.

In May 2013, bus 293 was more than three seconds late through the intersection of New Bern Avenue and Tarboro Street after the light turned red. Big yellow school buses weren’t the only ones in trouble. One photo showed a Wake County activity bus going through a red light almost three and a half seconds after it turned red.

Raleigh is the only city in Wake County with red-light cameras. Currently, 15 intersections are monitored, and most are only monitored in one direction. Once administrative and operational costs are covered by the city for its red-light camera program, the rest of the money goes to the school system.

While all the red-light photos were snapped in Raleigh, several of the buses WRAL Investigates tracked served schools in Cary and Morrisville. Some photos showed school buses turning right on red lights, which buses aren't supposed to do.

Wake County public schools declined WRAL Investigates' repeated requests for an interview. Instead, spokesman Bill Poston released a statement:

"WCPSS has 900 bus drivers transporting students 100,000 miles a day to and from school. Any traffic violation or accident in which a driver is involved is taken seriously and reviewed by transportation managers. Drivers are held accountable for their actions. In the case of red light camera violations, drivers receive a reprimand, pay the fine and face appropriate disciplinary action."

When a WCPSS school bus is involved in a red-light camera violation, the following steps occur, according to the school system:

  • The driver is notified of the incident via a letter of discipline.
  • The district reviews the cases and looks at an employee’s complete history when evaluating disciplinary action. They are all handled on a case-by-case basis.
  • The district can recommend termination where poor performance and serious driving errors warrant.
  • Drivers are required to pay their own fines arising from the traffic violation.

Wake County school bus red-light tickets: 2013-14

Sort the red-light tickets by bus number, location, date or time. Click on "full report/photos" to see more information about each ticket. Source: City of Raleigh

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  • Brian Ceccarelli Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    It is the NCDOT's fault; not the bus driver's. It is physics which makes the bus driver run the red, not driving ability.

    The NCDOT's yellow light time spec does not accomodate the heavier commercial vehicles. For the yellow light, the NCDOT assumes 1.5 seconds for driver perception/reaction time, 11.2 ft/s/s for braking deceleration, and no time for air brakes to engage. These are the characteristics of the Toyota Corolla driver who worries only about himself.

    Commercial truckers need an additional second of yellow to make sure their vehicle won't jackknife or passengers won't be flung from their seats, an additional 2.0 seconds to decelerate because the heavier vehicle cannot decelerate (8 ft/s/s) as quickly as a Toyota Corolla (11 ft/s/s), and an additional 0.75 seconds for air-brakes lag time. It takes about 1 second for a school bus's air brakes to pressurize before the brakes start working.

    Add it up. The NCDOT shorts a school bus driver about 4 seconds.

  • Forthe Newssite Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    IF the driver is driving the speed limit as they should be doing, and they see the light turn yellow THEY SHOULD STOP!! easy.

  • Jim Hinnant Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    Nice headline. So, these devices are like "tractor beams" that actually grab onto the bus?

  • Robert Pescatore Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Really!! Request your day in court as is your right to face your accuser. See if they provide also see if they can prove you are driving. Before opening your big mouth you should educate yourself!!

  • Robert Pescatore Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    As in all so called tickets request your court date to face your accuser as is your right. They have no answer. YOU are part of the problem just mindless sheep!!

  • spiritseeker Nov 20, 2014

    If you want to report a bus, the WCPS transportation department will want you to give them the bus number in order for them to take action. Who can get a bus number when you are paying attention to driving for your own safety.

  • Amy Johnson Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    I agree with GMAYJUNKBOX - investigation needs to be done at the corner or MLK and Blount. Out of 34 red light citations, 18 were at that intersection. That's 53%! There has to be some reason that light is blown frequently. I also agree that it is difficult to stop such a heavy vehicle in a very short distance. Someone should get Monica Laliberte out there!

  • Venita Peyton Nov 20, 2014
    user avatar

    Perhaps there is disorder on the bus that usurps the driver's attention. As mentioned, some drivers may have multiple routes (and be tired). Plus there always seems to be a shortage of drivers. There is no easy solution.

    We still should applaud these hardworking people who (somehow) manage to get our kids home safely.

  • JXJ Nov 20, 2014

    View quoted thread

    They do the speed limit if it is 45! When it is 25 mph in front of the SCHOOL during drop off hours, I shoudn't be passed by a bus doing 45! That isn't a mistake. A mistake is when one doesn't intentionally do something. An "accident" if you will. When you have the pedal to the floor in a school zone going 20 over the speed limit, that isn't a mistake. When they lay on the horn as they go past, that isn't a mistake. That means they are mad that you aren't speeding, too. Yes, the children! Apparently, you don't have any or your take on this might be a shade different. This is one of the many reasons I don't allow my kids on the bus.

  • gmayjunkbox Nov 20, 2014

    To continue my previous post, I'm not condoning the drivers running the red lights, I do see the drivers speeding, running lights, etc. all the time and this shouldn't be done with kids on the bus. But they don't do anything worse than most of the other drivers in Raleigh, people hardly ever stop at stop signs anymore, run red lights all the time, drive 15 mph over the speed limit, texting, etc. As OGE pointed out RPD does nothing about these issues and it will continue until the laws are enforced, but I guess they can't enforce them when they do the same thing.