Highway Patrol reminds drivers to be aware of buses this week

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shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.

“We must ensure our children’s safety as they travel to and from school,” said Colonel Bill Grey, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. “A child’s life should never be put in danger just to save a minute or two during a daily commute. That’s why we’re going to make sure people know the law as well as the consequences of breaking it.”

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.

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.

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