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Fri March 29, 2013
Bi-Partisan Support for Tougher Fines on Motorists Who Pass School Buses
According to the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University, a one-day sample in 2012 found that about 3,200 drivers illegally passed stopped school buses. This would equal about 576,000 violations each school year.
Two North Carolina State Representatives want to stiffen penalties for such violations. Forsyth County Representatives Edward Hanes, Jr., a Democrat, and Donny Lambeth, a Republican, are co-sponsoring the North Carolina School Bus Safety Act. It would increase fines for motorists convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus. Passing a bus without incident would be a misdemeanor carrying a fine of $500. Striking a child would be a felony with a $2,500 fine. If a motorist hit and killed a child while passing a stopped school bus, they would face a $5,000 fine. Multiple misdemeanors could also lead to a driver’s license being revoked for a year or more.
Hanes says he hopes this bill sends a wake-up call to drivers. “We know there are nearly 3,900 incidences a year in Forsyth County of people running past stopped school buses. This is not something we’re going to tolerate and we’re going to protect our children.” The bill also urges school districts to use the money from the fines to purchase mounted cameras on buses to catch offenders.
Lambeth says other legislative options may be considered down the road, including extending the stop arm further out from the bus. "It only goes out about 18 inches," he says. "Extend it out four to five feet and make it more visible and actually block part of the lane, that is something worth looking at.” In Forsyth County last December, a sixth-grade boy was killed while attempting to board the bus. He attended East Forsyth Middle School. In January, a second-grader from Gibson elementary was hit. She suffered minor injuries. Both buses had the stop arm out. The bill now goes to a house committee.
The measure is getting a lot of bi-partisan support and State Representatives Hanes and Lambeth say it will help strengthen Governor Pat McCrory's newly announced Center for Safer Schools. This bill also proposes anonymous tip lines and crisis kits for every school.