Local News

Troopers crack down on drivers who pass stopped school buses

Posted October 19, 2015 6:56 p.m. EDT
Updated October 20, 2015 6:18 a.m. EDT

— 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.