Local News

School Buses Often In Harm's Way

Posted January 19, 2004 8:03 a.m. EST

— While many of us are sleeping, school-bus drivers hit the road to pick up our children.

Good bus drivers do all they can to get kids to school safely. They said there is not much they can do about other people who drive dangerously.

"Basically, people in a hurry don't pay you any attention," school-bus driver Arthur Edgerton said.

When Edgerton picks up students on busy streets, he sees drivers do things that are downright crazy.

"You have to blow your horn," he said. "Make them look at you. Make them realize that the stop sign is out there."

Sometimes not even the horn, stop sign or flashing lights work.

"If you're on a busy road and you turn them on and they're not paying attention, you see two or three cars going by," Edgerton said.

Troopers said a truck driver in Robeson County was not paying attention when he reached for his dropped cell phone Tuesday. The driver slammed into a stopped bus as 6-year-old Sheila Hernandez was getting on. The wreck killed her.

The next day in Cumberland County, officers said a speeding driver crashed head-on into a stopped bus.

"That affects us on the traffic unit. That hits us at home, so it motivates my entire unit to get out and to work harder," said Officer Tracy Turner of the Raleigh Polcie Department.

Turner goes after drivers who ignore the flashing lights and stop arms of school buses as well as those who speed in school zones.

In one morning in the Wilburn Elementary School zone, Turner wrote a speeding ticket every 10 minutes. She said it is a problem across the city.

Under North Carolina law, speeding in a school zone will cost drivers three points on their license. Passing a stopped school bus will cost drivers five points.

The law states drivers must stop unless the school bus is on the other side of a median or, if it is on a four-lane highway and a turn lane separates a car and bus.

Bus drivers, law officers and school leaders can only hope recent bus wrecks will remind drivers to follow the law and pay attention to school bus flashing lights and stop arms to keep children safe.

According to federal numbers, school buses are one of the safest vehicles on the road. Most children who die in school bus- related crashes die outside the bus doors.