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Stop…in the name of safety

Published 8:16am Monday, October 21, 2013

Fortunately, there have been no injuries or loss of life in the Roanoke-Chowan area involving young students boarding or exiting a stopped school bus.

Sgt. Mike Warren of the North Carolina Highway Patrol’s Troop A/District II office in Ahoskie wants to keep that string of good luck intact.

Warren, along with his NCHP colleagues, will launch an aggressive campaign all of next week to enforce school bus stop arm laws and other traffic-related violations in and around the school zones of Bertie, Gates and Hertford counties.

“Operation Stop Arm” will be held statewide the week of Oct. 21-25.

“We will beef up our patrols, our presence at our local schools as well as the major routes shared by buses and motorists during the morning commute and in the afternoon when school dismisses and the students are en route home,” Warren said.

“There is precious cargo onboard those buses and we, the Highway Patrol, wants to ensure their safe arrival at school on weekday mornings and for their return trip home in the afternoon,” Warren added.

Through personal observation as well as being backed-up by statistics, Warren said the great majority of motorists abide by the law when it comes to a stopped school bus that is loading or unloading its young passengers.

“Most motorists that are meeting or are behind a school bus stop when the bus activities its flashing red lights and stop arm,” Warren stated. “However, on an average day in our state, nearly 2,300 motorists disregard school bus stop arms.”

Locally and statewide, NCHP troopers will be driving marked and unmarked patrol cars during the week-long operation.

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 fines up to $200. It becomes a Class 1 Felony if an individual is struck by a driver that has passed a stopped school bus. Should that incident result in death, the driver faces a Class H Felony.

“We must ensure our children’s safety as they travel to and from school,” said Frank Perry, secretary of the Department of Public Safety. “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.”

To assist law enforcement agencies across, cameras have been installed on the outside of some school buses. Under the Nicholas Adkins Safety Act, video evidence can be used to prosecute stop arm violations. The act increases the penalty for those who strike and kill a child when they pass a stopped school bus. The Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act is named after the Rockingham County teen that died when a driver did not stop for a school bus that had stopped and extended its stop arm.

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