Highway Patrol help to enforce Operation Stop Arm
October 18, 2015
NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) -State officials are calling this week, 'Operation Stop Arm.' In conjunction with the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, State Highway Patrol will be aggressively enforcing stop arm violations and other traffic violations in and around school zones.
The operation started 6:00 a.m. Monday and runs through Friday, October 23. Troopers across North Carolina will be following school buses and working in school zones, in marked and unmarked cars.
New Hanover County Schools took a safety step of their own this year, rolling out ten buses with 6-foot-long stop arms. The arms make it nearly impossible to pass through once they're extended.
"The only way you're going to run it is to hit it or to swerve to try and avoid it," said Tammy Wilson, a NHCS bus driver whose extended stop arm was hit two weeks ago.
It's one of two that have been hit since the state-funded trial program started in August, but the county says two accidents is a much smaller number than buses without the extended arms see.
"On an average day, over 100 vehicles pass by a stopped school bus," said Ken Nance, Director of Transportation for NHCS. "People are more aware and they are stopping more than the buses that do not have the 6 foot stop arm.”
Highway Patrol officials hope their effort will decrease violations and reduce school bus collisions.
According to N.C Department of Public Instruction, nearly 800,000 students in the state rely on school buses to get to and from school, but nearly 3,000 motorists disregard the school bus stop arms on an average school day, causing a real danger to those children.
“We must ensure our children’s safety as they travel to and from school,” said Colonel Bill Grey, commander of the North Carolina State Highway Patrol. “A child’s life should never be put in danger just to save a minute or two during a daily commute. That’s why we’re going to make sure people know the law as well as the consequences of breaking it.”
Passing a stopped school bus is a Class 1 misdemeanor. If convicted, a person will receive five driving points on their driver’s license and is subject to a minimum fine of $500.
If a driver hits an individual when passing a stopped school bus, it becomes a Class 1 felony, and carries a minimum fine of $1,250. Should the violation result in a death, the violation would be a Class H felony and carry with it a minimum fine of $2,500.
For more information concerning school bus safety and illegal passing, please visit the Department of Public Instruction’s school bus safety web site at http://www.ncbussafety.org/.
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By: Stacey Pinno, www.wect.com