N.C. bill to enforce stop arm violations makes it to House

Catching school bus stop arm violators

NORTH CAROLINA (WVEC) -- Can you imagine if your child was hit by a car that was trying to pass a stopped school bus? It's a dangerous move that puts young lives at risk. Lawmakers in North Carolina are hoping to crack down on the problem and catch violators.

It's already illegal to pass a bus when its stop arms are out and lights are flashing, but even still thousands of people violate the law on a daily basis. Over the past four years, North Carolina school bus drivers reported that over 3,000 vehicles illegally passed their stopped buses on a single day. In 2014, North Carolina Public Schools reported that 3,153 vehicles violated the stop-arm law in a one-day count.

A state Senate bill that would allow counties to pass local ordinances to enforce the law has now made it to a House committee. It would allow school systems to contract with vendors to install cameras and hit the vehicle's registered owner with a $500 civil penalty. Violators are subject to a $100 late penalty if the ticket is not paid in time.

"What if it was my daughter getting off the bus and somebody ran around the bus? It's really dangerous," Elizabeth City parent Christina Blong said.

"I've heard about kids getting killed. You never know if a kid's coming across the street or something," Elizabeth City resident Scott Craig said.

Since 2012, there have been five school bus stop arm fatalities, according to North Carolina Public Schools. A driver who passes a stopped school bus and hits someone is subject to a Class I felony charge and a fine of at least $1,000. If someone is killed, the penalty rises to a Class H felony and a fine of $2,500.

Natalie Harris of Elizabeth City says she sees cars zooming around school buses all the time. She's afraid one day it might be her child that gets hit.

"I get very angry. I holler and scream in the car. People just don't want to stop, especially with the main road-- it's four lanes. Something needs to work to where they stop, and sometimes if you hit the pocket, that makes a difference," she said.

13News Now contacted the chairman of the Board of Commissioners for Pasquotank County to see if there was any interest in pursuing stop-arm camera legislation for Pasquotank County Public Schools. Chairman Joe Winslow said that it would depend on if it's financially feasible. He says if the Board of Education has room in its budget, he fully supports a measure that would provide safety for children.

Board of Education member Harvey Beasley told 13News Now he is very interested in doing whatever is necessary to protect students. He said the cost would be another subject for the school board.

Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public Schools issued 13News Now this statement:

"The Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Public School District is aware of the safety concerns regarding motorists not obeying the stop sarm for buses transporting students. It is of great concern for our students' well-being. It is our plea that motorists consider the safety of students when sharing the road with school buses."

Under a pilot program, two school buses in each of North Carolina's school districts already have cameras mounted on the outside to catch stop arm violations.


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