STUDENTS PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

STUDENTS PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

STUDENTS PLAY CRITICAL ROLE IN SCHOOL BUS SAFETY

By / State News / Wednesday, 14 September 2016 04:00

RALEIGH, N.C. - More than 800,000 public school students boarded a school bus and headed off to school last week in North Carolina. But if past numbers from the state’s annual stop-arm violation count continue to hold true, at least 3,100 vehicles will have illegally passed a stopped school bus while students were trying to get on and off the bus.
Each year, school bus drivers are asked to take a single-day count of how many times a vehicle passes their school bus while it is stopped to load or unload children. For the past several years that number has remained fairly consistent with more than 3,100 vehicles illegally passing a stopped school bus. Motorists fail to stop when coming from behind, from ahead and even on the right side of the bus.  Multiply this single-day’s count by 180 days of school, and the number of violations is staggering, putting at risk the lives of thousands of children. Since 1998, 13 students have died from injuries sustained because a motorist illegally passed a stopped school bus. Violations continue despite ongoing public awareness and enforcement efforts.
To help address this continuing concern, the State Board of Education revised its bus-safety policy in July 2015 to focus more attention on the role of students, parents and school bus drivers at the bus stop.
Drawing on school bus safety standards and practices from across the country, the revised policy requires bus drivers to use a standard hand signal that tells students a roadway is safe to cross. The hand signals empower the driver, usually the only school system employee on the scene, and guide students to consciously assess the roadway by looking at their bus driver before stepping into an active road. A graphic presentation of this new signal is available online at http://www.ncbussafety.org
The revised school bus policy also requires that school districts provide and document training to all students, not just those who ride the bus. School districts were required to implement the revised policy on Jan. 1.
State Superintendent June Atkinson asked all parents of students who ride the bus to make sure their children understand the safety procedures at the school bus stop, including the driver’s crossing signal, and to review basic safety rules with their children.
“Students must play a bigger role in their personal safety,” Atkinson said. “They can’t take for granted vehicles will stop just because the bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.” She said she also appreciated the support of school principals as they work to make sure that the message of school bus safety reaches all students.
Visit the NC School Bus Safety website at http://www.ncbussafety.org for more information on this policy or school bus safety in North Carolina.
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.
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.
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.
Source: North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

 

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