Local News

Bus safety among top concerns as school year begins

Posted August 21, 2014 5:25 p.m. EDT
Updated August 21, 2014 5:38 p.m. EDT

— Kassie McCollum is getting ready to send her nephew back to Daniels Middle School, and she's thinking about bus safety - especially the danger from drivers passing stopped school buses.

“They know children will be getting off the bus, and they need to be careful,” she said.

School bus safety is a major concern among parents and administrators alike as the traditional school year begins next week. State Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson joined state troopers at Combs Elementary School in Raleigh on Thursday to remind drivers that ignoring a stop-arm is illegal and dangerous.

The state says 13 children have been killed since 1999 by drivers who did not stop while students were getting on or off their buses.

In just one day, North Carolina bus drivers counted more than 3,000 people illegally passing stopped school buses.

Atkinson says there's one simple rule for drivers to remember: “When you see a yellow school bus, be prepared to stop. Slow down, and make sure you are aware of your environment.”

Atkinson says parents also need to take some time before class starts to make sure students remember one basic rule.

“Look to the left, look to the right, then proceed across the road or the street,” she said. “Do it not only one time, but two times.”

State Transportation Secretary Tony Tata echoed Atkinson’s concerns, saying keeping students safe is a priorty.

“We urge students to be careful when crossing the street and drivers to do their part by keeping a close eye on students who are getting on or off school buses, as well as students and teachers who are walking to and from school,” he said.

North Carolina has stiff penalties for drivers who fail to comply with school bus safety rules.

  • There is a $500 penalty for anyone caught passing a stopped school bus, with the possibility of license revocation.
  • There is a $250 penalty for speeding in a school zone.
  • Passing a stopped school bus can cost drivers five points on their driver’s licenses and eight points for commercial vehicles.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation launced the “Watch for Me NC” campaign to raise safety awareness. Learn more online.