Bright and early this morning, more than 800,000 public
school students boarded a school bus and headed off to school. But if past
numbers from the state’s annual stop-arm violation count continue to hold true,
at least 3,100 vehicles will have illegally passed a stopped school bus while
students were trying to get on and off the bus.
Each year, school bus drivers are asked
to take a single-day count of how many times a vehicle passes their school bus
while it is stopped to load or unload children. For the past several years that
number has remained fairly consistent with more than 3,100 vehicles illegally
passing a stopped school bus. Motorists fail to stop when coming from behind,
from ahead and even on the right side of the bus. Multiply this single-day’s count by 180 days
of school, and the number of violations is staggering, putting at risk the
lives of thousands of children. Since 1998, 13 students have died from injuries
sustained because a motorist illegally passed a stopped school bus. Violations
continue despite ongoing public awareness and enforcement efforts.
To help address
this continuing concern, the State Board of Education revised its bus-safety
policy in July 2015 to focus more attention on the role of students, parents
and school bus drivers at the bus stop.
on school bus safety standards and practices from across the country, the
revised policy requires bus drivers to use a standard hand signal that tells
students a roadway is safe to cross. The hand signals empower the driver,
usually the only school system employee on the scene, and guide students to
consciously assess the roadway by looking at their bus driver before stepping
into an active road. A graphic presentation of this new signal is available online.
The revised school bus policy
also requires that school districts provide and document training to all
students, not just those who ride the bus. School districts were
required to implement the revised policy on Jan. 1.
State Superintendent June Atkinson asked all parents of
students who ride the bus to make sure their children understand the safety
procedures at the school bus stop, including the driver’s crossing signal, and
to review basic safety rules with their children.
“Students must play a bigger role in their personal safety,”
Atkinson said. “They can’t take for granted vehicles will stop just because the
bus lights are flashing and the stop arm is out.” She said she also appreciated
the support of school principals as they work to make sure that the message of
school bus safety reaches all students.
the NC School Bus Safety website for more information on this
policy or school bus safety in North Carolina.