Wake County Schools

Wake schools hope change to bus stop procedure increases safety

Posted August 17, 2015 5:01 p.m. EDT
Updated August 17, 2015 5:49 p.m. EDT

— The Wake County Public School System will implement a new school bus boarding procedure designed to keep students safe when traditional-calendar schools open next week for the 2015-16 school year.

The change could add some time to the morning commute for buses and other vehicles by slowing the boarding process to avoid incidents when children have been injured by vehicles approaching stopped buses, officials said.

Previously, a bus' flashing lights, stop arm and crossing guard arm would all activate, automatically, at the same time.

"That didn't give traffic a chance to really stop," bus driver Rosemarie Strother said Monday. "The kids, as soon as they saw the red lights come on, they are booking across the street to come and get on the bus."

The new system will allow Strother and other drivers to manually operate the safety devices once they determine it's safe for students to step off the curb at bus stops.

The state Department of Public Instruction paid about $337,000 to retrofit some 900 Wake County school buses with the switch needed to manually operated the safety devices.

"You never know when someone is not paying attention driving, and they're just going to come zooming by," Strother said.

Several such accidents occurred last year, and a Wendell boy was killed in one.

District transportation officials provided schools and PTAs with resources to teach students the new process for boarding the bus. The new rule: Wait for the crossing bar guard to open fully, check traffic left and right and then walk to the bus.

Students said they are ready for the change.

"I used to feel like it wasn't that safe because I would almost get hit by a car sometime because some cars would really speed by our bus stop," said Mia Nesbeth Flynn, a student at Carpenter Elementary School.

"The cars have longer time to slow down, and the kids have more time to look both ways," said Sebastian Mentler, a Carpenter Elementary student.