Passing a stopped school bus? Cameras could catch you

Posted April 12, 2011 6:00 p.m. EDT
Updated April 12, 2011 7:06 p.m. EDT

School Bus

— Each day in North Carolina, more than 2,000 drivers illegally pass public school buses, and the state has the video to prove it’s happening.

The state is mounting cameras on the stop arms of some school buses to catch violators in the act.

“It’s not just a matter of grabbing the license tag and seeing what car passed. In order to prosecute, you have to be able to identify the driver,” said Derek Graham, chief of the state Department of Public Instruction's transportation services section.

Passing a stopped school bus is a Class 2 misdemeanor. If convicted, a person will receive five points on his or her driver's license and be subject to fines up to $200.

Passing a stopped school bus and hitting a person is a felony in North Carolina. Since 1998, 10 North Carolina students have been killed by drivers who passed stopped school buses.

Ashley Ramos-Hernandez, 6, was hit and killed on Aug. 19, 2009, by Geraldine Baron Deitz, 84, who had passed a stopped school bus.

Deitz had to pay a $500 fine and give up her driver's license for a year as part of her sentence. She was also sentenced to 18 months of unsupervised probation and ordered to pay $130 in court costs. If she wanted her license reinstated, she also had to undergo a medical review.

“The danger for the kids is when motorists don’t pay attention when (students) are getting on and off the bus,” Graham said.

In one day, the Department of Public Instruction spotted 287 drivers passing stopped school buses in Wake County, 139 in Cumberland County and 52 in Durham County.

The cameras will be paid for with a $30,000 grant from the Governor's Highway Safety Program.

The Department of Public Instruction hopes to purchase at least five cameras as part of the pilot program and install them before the end of this school year. There was no word yet on what counties will receive the cameras.