WRAL Investigates

Red-light cameras capture dozens of Wake school buses

Posted November 19, 2014 5:30 p.m. EST
Updated November 20, 2014 9:38 a.m. EST

— Each day, about 800,000 public school students across the state take the bus to school. Parents expect school bus drivers to obey the rules, but WRAL Investigates found that doesn't always happen.

WRAL Investigates uncovered red-light citations involving Wake County Public School System buses from Raleigh’s SafeLight program. Since last year, dozens of buses have been snapped running red lights, even though only a handful of Raleigh’s intersections are monitored.

Some of the buses went through the intersections as late as two, three and four seconds after the light turned red while driving 10 mph over the speed limit.

“It’s extremely concerning,” said parent Jason Goodman, who has three children in the Wake County school system. “I expect the driver to follow the rules of the road ... If I put my child on the bus and I see pictures of a bus clearly running a red light by several seconds, they’re putting my kids in danger."

In September, bus 1102 wasn't even half way through the intersection when it was snapped going nearly 10 mph over the speed limit.

Bus 896 received two red light violations (violation 1 | violation 2) in a two-week period in May. Both photos were taken at South Blount Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard in downtown Raleigh about two seconds after the light turned red. The school system couldn’t determine if students were riding at the time, but a school spokesman said the bus driver is no longer with the system.

WRAL Investigates also found several cases where other vehicles had plenty of time to stop, but not the bus. On May 30, a car driving in the right lane ahead of bus 896 was able to stop, but the bus kept going. On March 31, bus 591 ran a red light, blowing past a Lucas Transportation bus that did manage to stop. No students were on board at the time.

In May 2013, bus 293 was more than three seconds late through the intersection of New Bern Avenue and Tarboro Street after the light turned red. Big yellow school buses weren’t the only ones in trouble. One photo showed a Wake County activity bus going through a red light almost three and a half seconds after it turned red.

Raleigh is the only city in Wake County with red-light cameras. Currently, 15 intersections are monitored, and most are only monitored in one direction. Once administrative and operational costs are covered by the city for its red-light camera program, the rest of the money goes to the school system.

While all the red-light photos were snapped in Raleigh, several of the buses WRAL Investigates tracked served schools in Cary and Morrisville. Some photos showed school buses turning right on red lights, which buses aren't supposed to do.

Wake County public schools declined WRAL Investigates' repeated requests for an interview. Instead, spokesman Bill Poston released a statement:

"WCPSS has 900 bus drivers transporting students 100,000 miles a day to and from school. Any traffic violation or accident in which a driver is involved is taken seriously and reviewed by transportation managers. Drivers are held accountable for their actions. In the case of red light camera violations, drivers receive a reprimand, pay the fine and face appropriate disciplinary action."

When a WCPSS school bus is involved in a red-light camera violation, the following steps occur, according to the school system:

  • The driver is notified of the incident via a letter of discipline.
  • The district reviews the cases and looks at an employee’s complete history when evaluating disciplinary action. They are all handled on a case-by-case basis.
  • The district can recommend termination where poor performance and serious driving errors warrant.
  • Drivers are required to pay their own fines arising from the traffic violation.

Wake County school bus red-light tickets: 2013-14

Sort the red-light tickets by bus number, location, date or time. Click on "full report/photos" to see more information about each ticket. Source: City of Raleigh

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