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, starting for most on Monday morning, to watch for drivers who speed through school zones and pass stopped buses.
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“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 schools 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 or confused over the laws regarding school buses. But Stamper offered this suggestion for those motorists: “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.