The Daily Southerner, Tarboro, NC

August 29, 2013

Motorists be on the lookout for school buses

The Daily Southerner

TARBORO — School buses are on the roads once again and officials are reminding motorists to be extra careful during times when buses are transporting children. About 4,500 students in Edgecombe County Public Schools (ECPS) are bus riders this academic year.

“They (motorists) should allow themselves extra travel time in the morning, knowing there will be school buses on the road traveling below the posted speed limit,” said Sgt. D.B. Finch of the North Carolina Highway Patrol.

Finch urges motorists to obey the posted speed limit so they don’t round a curve too quickly, come up on a stopped school bus and not have enough time to stop. He also encourages drivers to familiarize themselves with school bus stops along the route they normally take to and from work.

Passing a stopped arm of a school bus carries a stiff penalty.

“It’s five points on your driver’s license and the fine is set by a judge because it’s a misdemeanor. It’s the fine plus $188 (court costs),” Finch said.

What’s worse, passing a stopped school bus could lead to a child being hit while crossing the road to get on or off a school bus.

“If they do pass a stopped school bus and a child is hit and injured, it’s a felony,” Finch said.

Many fatalities in school bus related accidents are children between the ages of 5 and 7, according to the Highway Patrol. The Associated Press reports that 12 students statewide have been killed boarding or leaving a school bus since 1999, and four of those deaths were last year.

Last year during the first week of school, an ECPS elementary school student was hit and killed at a rural school bus stop when she ran into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

This academic year, the first day of school (Monday) went smoothly in terms of transporting students.

“I would say from the transportation end that we did an excellent job this morning,” said Superintendent John Farrelly.

The Highway Patrol provides the following tips to children waiting at a bus stop and getting on or off a school bus:

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.

Never walk behind the bus.

Drivers are advised to follow these school bus safety guidelines:

Be alert. Children arriving late for the bus may dart into the street without looking for traffic.

Learn the “flashing signal light system” that school bus drivers use to alert motorists: Yellow flashing lights mean the bus is preparing to stop to load or unload children, and motorists should slow down and prepare to stop. Red flashing lights and extended stop arms mean that the bus had stopped and children are getting on or off the bus. Drivers must stop and wait until the red lights stop flashing, the extended stop arm is withdrawn, and the bus begins moving again before resuming driving.