Drive smart and safely

Published 2:51 pm Thursday, August 4, 2016

In a couple of weeks, students will be returning to school. That means school buses will be on the road in the mid-morning and mid-afternoon on school days. And as a new school year approaches, it’s time for a reminder to drive extra carefully when school buses are on the roads.

Since 1998, 149 school-age pedestrians have died in school transportation-related crashes across the nation, according to the Accident Data Center. Every day in North Carolina, about 800,000 students ride school buses, according to state officials. Those officials also say that the number of crashes where vehicles run into the rear of school buses appears to be increasing, with some of those crashes caused by distracted drivers, including some using cellphones.

The North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles, in its latest Traffic Crash Facts report, said there were 809 school bus crashes in recent years, with 248 of them resulting in injuries and two resulting in one fatality each. That report, released in 2012, shows there were six school bus crashes in Beaufort County, resulting in two injuries in 2012. The report is released every four years.

To help prevent accidents involving school buses and other vehicles, there are laws regarding the passing of school buses that are stopped to pick up or discharge passengers. Violating those laws have consequences — students could be injured or killed and violators face fines, loss of their driver’s licenses and, in some cases, jail time.

On any given day in North Carolina, motorists illegally pass about 3,000 stopped school buses, according to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. During a statewide count in March, that number reached 3,100.

If you are a motorist, don’t be among those motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses. If you do, you run the risk of getting a ticket, or worse, injuring or killing a child.

Being in a hurry could have consequences — fatal ones. Drive smart. Drive safely.