Next week, October 21-25, is National School Bus Safety Week. The National Association for Pupil Transportation estimates that 25 million students ride school buses every school day and this week serves as a reminder for students, parents, teachers and the community to keep school bus safety in the forefront before and after school.
In preparation, the North Carolina State Highway Patrol began a campaign called “Operation Stop Arm” on October 15. During the campaign, troopers will monitor bus routes in unmarked vehicles at the beginning and end of the school day to cite violators for passing a stopped school bus. Some troopers will also ride on school buses to interact with the students while citing motorists for violations.
In an effort to draw more attention to stopped busses, some states have added extended stop arms to block vehicles from illegally passing. Rather than the standard 18 inches, these new arms will extend anywhere from 4.5 feet to 6.5 feet.
In 2016 in North Carolina there were 930 reported school bus crashes resulting in 781 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the NCDOT. Additionally, NC Highway Patrol said that 3,100 cars pass stopped school buses in NC each year. In South Carolina, there were 443 collisions resulting in 222 injuries and 4 fatalities, according to the SCDPS.
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus include a $500 fine and an additional four insurance points, which could increase insurance rates by 80 percent. It’s vital that drivers also slow down and obey the posted speed limit in a school zone – a child’s life could depend on it.
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University have partnered to produce a PSA to raise public awareness on school bus safety.
Tips for motorists that encounter a stopped school bus on the roads:
- Two-lane roadway: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- Two-lane roadway with a center turning lane: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- Four-lane roadway without a median separation: when school bus stops, all traffic from both directions must stop.
- Any divided highway with a median: when school bus stops, only traffic following the bus must stop.
- Roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane: when school bus stops, only traffic following the bus must stop.
Tips for school bus riders:
- Stand at least three giant steps back from the curb as the bus approaches
- Wait for the school bus to come to a complete stop before boarding.
- If you must cross in front of the bus to cross the street, make eye contact with the driver and cross only when the driver indicates it’s safe.
- If you drop something around the bus, let your bus driver know so they do not lose sight of you trying to pick it up.
For more information on year-long school bus safety tips, see this informative pamphlet from the National Association for Pupil Transportation.