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Troopers crack down on drivers who pass stopped school buses

Posted October 19, 2015
Updated October 20, 2015

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— North Carolina State Highway Patrol Troopers are taking an aggressive approach to stop drivers from illegally passing stopped school buses.

In North Carolina an estimated 3,000 drivers disregard the bus stop arms every day, and according to Al Miller, the director of transportation for Cumberland County schools, the problem is getting worse.

In video from 2010, seven cars passed a stopped school bus on Cliffdale Road.

"Children can do anything at any point in time," Miller said. "So once that stop sign comes out, stop. The vehicles have to stop."

According to school records, on a single day in March 2015, 200 vehicles passed stopped buses in Cumberland Country. Ten of them passed on the side of the bus where students were getting on and off the bus.

In effort to battle the growing number of offenders, troopers implemented "Operation Stop Arm." Authorities say they are stepping up patrol this week, looking for violators.

"On occasion, we will actually put a trooper on a bus with the children as the driver is moving through their rounds," said trooper Marcus Bethea. "We have another trooper available in another car, then throughout radio transmissions, as violators are spotted, we can move a vehicle out and actually stop that violator in real time."

While the week-long program will catch some violators and focus attention on the problem, Miller says the law for passing a stopped school bus has to be changed from a criminal offense to a civil citation.

"What that means is - if you're driving your car and you go through a stopped school bus, and I can identify the car by the tag number, then you get a ticket," he said.

The school system has also implemented new hand signals to help keep children safe. Kids know to wait for the "thumbs up" before moving to the bus from the stop.

15 Comments

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  • dracine Oct 22, 2015

    News should repeatedly explain the rules for passing a school bus. I often see cars stop when not required, I believe they should be ticketed as well.

  • William James Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    Hilarious, they actually sent a picture of an illegal passer, yet they are developing a strategy to catch them in the act! The picture attached to this article clearly demonstrates that a rear mounted camera can easily pick up the license tags and speed of all violators year round at a one time cost vs. wasting thousands in gas and man hours. Just zoom into the photo and send the guy a ticket Capt Obvious.

  • Roger Way Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    There is ALWAYS an appeal process for a civil fine. The SafeLight program provides an appeal process for individuals who feel unjustly cited for a red-light violation. Appeals must be received no later than thirty (30) days from the date of issuance of the ticket. Instructions on how to appeal a SafeLight citation also appear on the back of each citation.

  • Cynthia Wilson Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    They really need to check secondary roads. I know I see this once a day on Rock Service Station.

  • Brian White Oct 20, 2015
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    Then you should be against issuing civil citations. Without a charge on your driving record, one could pass school buses repeatedly without ever receiving a single driver's license point (this is assuming they have deep enough pockets to keep paying the fines). If they receive a criminal charge for passing a school bus, it's 5 points on their record, with 12 points resulting in a suspended license.

  • Brian White Oct 20, 2015
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    There is no traffic court for a civil fine. Once received, you have to mail in a check without the state ever proving you were driving the vehicle. Also, nothing goes on your driving record since it is not a criminal offense. That's why the DoT Director wants the method changed; less for them to prove, less time spent in court fighting offenders, and a greater immediate financial penalty for drivers.

    And did I say anything about the safety of children being less of a concern as a driver's rights? I'm not really sure where that came from, or why you can't ensure a child's safety at the same time as respecting the law.

  • Roger Way Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    I support this effort 100%. Personally, I believe that two or more citations for passing a stopped school bus should result in a suspended license. People who put our children at risk to save a few seconds are too stupid to drive.

  • Roger Way Oct 20, 2015
    user avatar

    "This way the State can bypass your constitutional right to due process where you are allowed to defend yourself in a court of law."

    Oh, please! You still have the right to due process on a civil citation - school bus or red light camera - through traffic court. If you ignore the court date and the fine, THEN you are justly turned over to collections. No "Constitutional Rights" are infringed in any way. Regardless, I rank the safety of our children above such petty concerns as a "driver's rights".

  • Kristin Byrne Oct 20, 2015
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    This highlights part of the problem. A lot of people are unaware of when you actually need to stop. While a big part of me would like to say it's better to be safe than sorry, I've seen an accident occur when someone came around a blind curve and hit someone who had stopped for a school bus when they shouldn't have stopped.

  • Tripp Weiland Oct 20, 2015
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    Thank you for posting this link. I think a huge problem is that drivers just don't know the rules for passing a bus. For example, I travel along a bus route that picks kids up on a 4 lane with turning lane road. Going the opposite direction of the bus, I am not required to stop. Most of the cars travelling the same direction as me stop anyway. If I am able to keep going I do. I have seen cars watch me pass in the opposite direction and then pass the bus from behind.
    It just plain ignorance of the rules regarding passing buses.

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