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Don’t forget the school bus rules

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  • Back to school safety

    Bus laws

    Confused about when you must stop for a school bus that has its red lights flashing? North Carolina law says drivers in both directions must stop for a school bus in these circumstances:

    • On two-lane roads, including two-lane roads with center turn lanes.

    • On four-lane roads without a median separation.

    Only drivers going in the same direction as the bus must stop in these cases:

    • Divided highways of four lanes or more with a median.

    • Roads of four lanes or more with center-turn lanes.

    Penalties for violating these laws are stiff: Passing a stopped school bus carries a $500 fine, possible license revocation and 5 points on the driver’s license. Speeding in a school zone carries a $250 fine plus points on your license.

    Safety tips for students

    Children should:

    • Get to their bus stops at least 10 minutes before the bus is scheduled to arrive.

    • Stand at least 6 feet – or three big steps – back from the curb.

    • Wait until the bus stops, the door opens and the driver says it’s OK to enter before boarding.

    • Alert the bus driver if someone drops something near the bus. Never try to pick it up, because the driver might not see you.

    Traffic trouble spots

    • Alexanderana Road and Old Statesville Road, near J.M. Alexander Middle and North Mecklenburg High schools.

    • Ardrey Kell Road and Community House Road area, with Community House Middle and Ardrey Kell High schools.

    • Beatties Ford Road, with University Park Elementary, Northwest School of the Arts and West Charlotte High.

    • Lawyers, Lebanon and Wilgrove-Mint Hill roads, near Lebanon Road Elementary, Northeast Middle and Independence High schools.

    • Monroe Road, near East Mecklenburg High School. Several students have been hit or nearly struck by vehicles there in recent years.

    • Park Road, near South Mecklenburg High, Quail Hollow Middle and Smithfield Elementary schools.

    • Rama Road, with McClintock Middle and Rama Road Elementary schools.



One day last spring, North Carolina public safety officials asked school bus drivers to keep count of motorists who passed buses that were stopped with their traffic arms extended and red lights flashing.

Drivers reported 1,353 violations on that one day statewide.

“And 586 of those were in Mecklenburg County,” said Carol Stamper, executive director of transportation for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Local and county law enforcement agencies and the N.C. Highway Patrol say they will step up patrols during the opening days of the school year to watch for drivers who speed through school zones and pass stopped buses. School started for most students Monday.

“I know you’ve had a little faster ride to work over the last several weeks,” CMS Superintendent Heath Morrison said last week to the area’s drivers. “Everything changes Monday. Please allow our children to get to school safely.”

Besides school zones and school buses picking up students, drivers will face increased congestion around schools, more buses on the roads and more pedestrians in areas where students walk to school.

School officials and police said some drivers may be unaware of or confused over the laws regarding school buses. Stamper offered this suggestion: “Just slow down when you see a bus slowing down.”

Officials say some of the responsibility for safety falls on parents and students. They remind parents to have students at the bus stop at least 10 minutes before the scheduled stop so students aren’t forced to run to catch the bus – and possibly into the flow of traffic.

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