School starts this week, so be especially careful during your morning and afternoon commutes. It's been 11 weeks since children have been crossing streets, waiting at bus stops, and hopping on and off of school buses. Asheville City school buses are back on the streets August 15, and Buncombe County school buses are back on the road August 16.
WHAT IS THE LAW?
When a bus is stopped to pick up children, the law requires motorists to stop if they are traveling in the same direction as the bus. Motorists are also required to stop if they are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus - unless the road is divided by a physical barrier, wall or median, or it's a four-lane highway divided by a center-turn lane.
KNOW THE FACTS, AND THE ODDS
Buncombe County operates the eighth largest school bus transportation system in North Carolina, including service for Asheville City Schools. Each school day 292 school buses travel nearly 16,600 miles of roads in Buncombe County/Asheville City, and transport over 16,500 students with an efficiency rating of approximately 98%.
A one-day stop arm count was conducted on March 23, 2012 of last school year, and bus drivers reported 65 violations. To put this in context, if the 65 violations on that single day were multiplied by the number of days (182) in a school year, that is over 11,830 violations in a given year. Even one violation is one too many, as each creates a danger for students.
School bus drivers have been instructed to report vehicles that pass a stopped school bus, and cameras mounted on bus side arms help in identifying such vehicles. The drivers fill out a form which identifies the vehicle and includes the license tag number, and submit it to the North Carolina Highway Patrol. The troopers assigned to school bus safety in Buncombe County investigate each complaint filed. Stiff penalties accompany a conviction for passing a stopped school bus. Motorists receive five points against their driver's license, face a $200 fine, and possibly 120 days in jail. Anyone who witnesses a school bus stop arm violation should contact the Highway Patrol at 298-4252 and report the vehicle's license tag number.
As of right now, all 29 of Asheville City School's buses and approximately 200 of Buncombe County Schools' buses are currently outfitted with cameras INSIDE buses to monitor activity and encourage positive student behavior. Another 50 Buncombe County School buses will receive internal cameras this fall. These cameras will discourage bullying and other misbehavior, and provide for an increased measure of safety for the thousands of students who ride school buses every day. Safety IS the top priority in transporting our state's most valuable resource – our children.