A proposed bill in the North Carolina Senate would revoke the driver’s license for anyone illegally passing a stopped school bus.
The current law (General Statue 20-217) states that “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 law continues “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shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move”.
As the law is currently written any driver found guilty of breaking that law can be charged with a misdemeanor, unless they hit a person then it’s a felony charge.
Under the proposed change a license would be revoked for any driver found guilty of not stopping, the first offense would be 30 days with a second offense being 90 days. License would be revoked for one year for any driver convicted of hitting anyone, and two years if the person dies.
Toni Floyd, former Director of Transportation for Watauga County Schools from 1990 until 2011 and now current DOT for Craven County Schools, said this has been a big problem for a long time. In an email to WataugaRoads.com Floyd stated she “had a meeting with the district attorney’s office and local law enforcement a few years ago to express concerns that these cases weren’t being prosecuted according to the law. Cases went to court and defendants were getting reduced sentences”. She went on to add that it is a state-wide problem, not just Watauga County.
Floyd also pointed out that “a problem that is unique to the mountain counties however, is the number of Tennessee drivers who pass through the area. Law enforcement cannot prosecute an out of state driver unless they catch them in the act”.
Jeff Lyons, current Director of Transportation for Watauga County Schools, says the problem is still widespread in Watauga. He referred to the statewide conducted “One Day School Bus Stop Arm Violation Count” on March 21, 2012 where Watauga had a total of 8 violations. That same day statewide school bus drivers witnessed 3,196 vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses at 2,299 bus stops according to ncbussafety.org. *see the end of article for PDF for all schools*
There is discussion of putting stop arm cameras on buses statewide according to the website School Transportation News. Lyons says it would cost around $2000 a bus for that to happen.
The proposed bill has passed three readings in the Senate, and one in the House. It was passed on to the Committee On Transportation in late February where it is awaiting action.
Statewide One Day School Bus Stop Arm Violation Count March 21, 2012 from ncbussafety.org