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Highway Patrol Urges Motorists to be Alert as School Buses Return to Roads

RALEIGH, N.C. : August 28th, 2016 - This week summer break ends for thousands of North Carolina children as they head back to school. For many, the trip to and from school involves riding on a school bus. With more than 14,000 school buses traveling North Carolina highways daily, paying attention to the road and avoiding distractions is a must in order to keep everyone safe. The North Carolina State Highway Patrol would like to remind motorists to be patient and exercise caution on the road, especially around schools, crosswalks, school buses and bus stops.
Although drivers are required to stop for a school bus when it is stopped to load or unload passengers, parents should also stress to their children that they should not automatically assume that a driver will in fact stop. Children exiting the bus should always stop and look both ways before crossing the street and remain alert at all times.
According to North Carolina State Law (N.C.G.S. 20-217), a driver must stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped.
The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move. According to NHTSA data, from 2004 to 2013, there were 327 school-age children who died in school-transportation-related crashes; 54 were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 147 were occupants of other vehicles, 116 were pedestrians, and 9 were pedal cyclists. There were more school-age pedestrians killed between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m. and between 3 and 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
“Ensuring the safety of students as they travel to and from school is a responsibility shared by everyone”, said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Our mission is to educate the motoring public on safe driving behaviors before, during and after school.”
Troopers statewide will monitor school bus routes, attempting to ensure motorists comply with stopping for school buses as they pick up and release students.
North Carolina has severe penalties for motorists who fail to comply with school bus safety rules.
• There is a $500 penalty for motorists who are caught passing a stopped school bus, and a five-point penalty on their driver license.
• A driver who passes a stopped school bus and strikes someone will face a Class I felony and be fined a minimum of $1,000.
• The penalty increases to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if someone is killed.
In an effort to promote traffic safety around North Carolina schools, school buses and school bus stops, the Highway Patrol is advising drivers, children and parents to follow a few simple safety tips:
Drivers
• When backing out of a driveway or leaving a garage, watch out for children walking or bicycling to school.
• When driving in neighborhoods with school zones, watch out for young people who may be thinking about getting to school, but may not be thinking of getting there safely.
• Slow down. Watch for children walking in the street, especially if there are no sidewalks in neighborhood.
• Slow down. Watch for children playing and congregating near bus stops.
• Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.
• Learn and obey the school bus laws in your state. Learn the "flashing signal light system" that school bus drivers use to alert motorists of pending actions:
• Yellow flashing lights indicate that the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children. Motorists should slow down and prepare to stop their vehicles.
• Red flashing lights and extended stop arms indicate that the bus has stopped, and that children are getting on or off. Motorists must stop their cars and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop sign is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving before they can start driving again.
Children
• Get to the bus stop at least five minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.
• When the bus approaches, stand at least three giant steps (6 feet) away from the curb, and line up away from the street.
• Wait until the bus stops, the door opens, and the driver says that it's okay before stepping onto the bus.
• If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, walk on the sidewalk or along the side of the road to a point at least five giant steps (10 feet) ahead of the bus before you cross. Be sure that the bus driver can see you, and you can see the bus driver.
• Use the handrails to avoid falls. When exiting the bus, be careful that clothing with drawstrings and book bags with straps don't get caught in the handrails or doors.
• Never walk behind the bus.
• Walk at least three giant steps away from the side of the bus.
• If you drop something near the bus, tell the bus driver. Never try to pick it up because the driver may not be able to see you.
Parents
• Teach children to follow these common sense practices to make school bus transportation safer.
For further information concerning school bus safety please visit the Department of Public Instruction's school bus safety web site at http://www.ncbussafety.org/Safety/index.html