Big yellow bus: flashing red means stop ahead

Of all the unexplainable things in the world, one of the most unexplainable is how a driver can be so distracted or so dumb as to pass a stopped school bus. There’s this big yellow thing in the road with its red lights flashing and a red stop sign about two-feet wide popping out of its side and drivers either don’t see or don’t care that they see it and blow by it. That’s the kind of carelessness that can kill a child.

On Monday, 139 school buses will hit the road in Lenoir County. Their cargo: several thousand young people whose safety depends on the drivers of the buses and the drivers of the vehicles the buses will encounter. We think we have our part covered. Most LCPS drivers are veterans with many miles under their belt and all are trained not only in driving skills but also in dealing with emergencies. They know and fully accept their responsibility. It’s the other guys on the road that they worry most about — and with good reason.

How many stop-arm violations — that is, passing a stopped school bus — do you think occur in North Carolina on an average school day? This year, the number is 3,153. It’s been as high as 3,680. 2014_StopSaveALife_posters-8.8.14The problem is so prevalent that the state decided to spend $1.3 million to put video cameras on the stop arms of at least two school buses in each school district. This year, LCPS will have eight buses equipped with the cameras and we’re looking for the green light to prosecute violators with evidence those cameras can provide.

To get an idea of what those cameras might see, check out these stop-arm videos from Stanley County http://tinyurl.com/oy5r575 and Cumberland County http://tinyurl.com/l5wq7mp. In this last clip, seven cars pass the bus after the stop sign comes out.

It’s not hard to figure out what to do when you’re meeting or following a bus on a two-lane road. It’s a little more difficult on a divided highway. Remember it this way: the usual rules apply — that is, traffic must stop in both directions — unless the bus is traveling on a highway of four or more lanes divided either by a median or a center turn lane. In those two cases, only traffic following the bus must stop. Bone up on the rules here http://tinyurl.com/6vghdfz

Four students died in the state during the 2012-2013 school year as the result of motorists failing to stop for a school bus. On Monday, most of North Carolina 1.5 public school students will go back to school and many of them will board a school bus to get there. Put down the cell phone. Keep the coffee in the cup holder. Pay attention. Watch out for school buses and watch out for our school children.