Traffic campaign aimed at school bus safety begins next week
Posted October 16, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — School bus safety is an issue that's been top of mind in recent weeks after several students were hit by drivers who failed to stop for buses.
On Sept. 30, Michael Burgess Jr. was crossing the street in Apex to get on his school bus when a teen driver hit him. The 11-year-old spent a week in the hospital and is still recovering from his injuries.
A few days after Burgess, siblings German Arroyo-Correa, 10, and Areli Arroyo-Correa, 5, were seriously injured by a car while boarding their school bus in Wilson County.
In both cases, the buses had come to a complete stop and had their safety lights and stop arms activated.
Bus drivers say something has to change.
According to the North Carolina Governor's Highway Safety Program, during a one-day count in 2012, bus drivers across the state reported seeing more than 3,000 vehicles passing stopped school buses in which children were getting on or getting off the bus.
In a continuing effort to prevent tragedies, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol next week plans to kick off its annual campaign, "Operation Stop Arm," to promote traffic safety around schools, school buses and school bus stops.
Approximately 1,500 state troopers will focus on school zones, trail buses and target and ticket drivers who don't obey traffic and safety laws. In recent years, troopers have issued thousands of traffic citations in and around schools and school buses.
Drivers like Trip Hatley, who drives for the Wake County Public School System, hope it gets drivers' attention.
"We just have thousands of drivers in this county alone that go along with their face in a phone instead of in a windshield," he said.
The penalties are stiff. A violation involving a school bus is a Class I misdemeanor but carries five points on a driver's license. It is an automatic felony if someone is hit or killed.
"I think a lot of it has to do merely with people in a rush," said Lt. Jeff Gordon with the Highway Patrol. "You can also sprinkle in there distracted driving, which is also a big, big component of this problem."