From Buncombe County Schools:
Asheville City and Buncombe County school buses are back on the road August 21. For the first time in eleven weeks, motorists will see children standing at bus stops in the mornings, and need to be extra cautious. A school bus is the safest mode of surface transportation; the danger for students lies in getting on and off the bus, especially when motorists do not obey the stop-arm signal and passing laws.
During a one-day count of bus “stop arm” violations conducted last March, Buncombe County school bus drivers reported 119 violations, significantly more than the previous year. Multiplying 119 by 182, the number of days in a school year, it is easy to see that an approximate 21,658 violations a year presents a very real danger to students.
It is vitally important that everyone remember the following simple rules:
When a bus is stopped to pick up children, the law requires motorists to stop for a school bus when they are traveling in the same direction as the bus.
Motorists are also required to stop for a school bus when they are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus unless the road is divided by a physical barrier, wall or median; or it is a four-lane highway divided by a center-turn lane.
One violation is one too many. Since 1999, 12 North Carolina students have lost their lives due to motorists passing stopped school buses illegally. 4 of these tragedies occurred just last year…an alarming increase.
School bus drivers have been instructed to report vehicles that pass a stopped school bus. The drivers fill out a form which identifies the vehicle and includes the license tag number, and submit it to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The troopers assigned to school bus safety in Buncombe County investigate each complaint filed. Stiff penalties accompany a conviction for passing a stopped school bus. Motorists receive five points against their driver’s license, face a $200 fine, and possibly 120 days in jail. Anyone who witnesses a school bus stop arm violation should contact the Highway Patrol at (828) 298-4252 with the vehicle license tag number.
In light of several dangerous incidents across the country involving adults accosting bus drivers, such as the one in Alabama last year, parents and other adults are also reminded that North Carolina law states that any person who enters a public school bus or public school activity bus after being forbidden to do so by the authorized school bus driver or the school principal shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor. For the safety of the students and driver, persons wishing to speak to the driver should do so at a distance of about 10 feet from the door, or at the driver’s side window if the bus is in a safe location such as the school parking lot.
It is also good for parents and the community to be aware that buses are not allowed to travel down non-state maintained roads. For Intermediate, Middle, and High School students the bus can only travel off of a main road if the furthest student on that road is over one half mile down the road. These rules allow us to operate as efficiently and as safe as possible.
Buncombe County operates the eighth largest school bus transportation system in North Carolina. Each school day 291 school buses travel 16,000 miles and transport 17,000 students safely to school and back. Safety is the school system’s top priority in transporting our state’s most valuable resource: our children. Buses have been equipped with the latest safety technology, such as cameras and global positioning systems.
Resources on school bus safety: NC School Bus Safety website www.ncbussafety.org; NC School Bus Stop Law brochure: http://www.ncbussafety.org/SchoolBusSafety/SBSWlaw.html; or for more information contact Joseph T. Hough, Director of Transportation, Buncombe County Schools at 828-232-4240 or Joseph.email@example.com.