School bus stop-arm cameras allowed in NC

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, July 27, 2017

Drivers who speed past school buses may want to think again.

Gov. Roy Cooper signed legislation Tuesday to allow counties to pass ordinances for the installation of cameras on a bus’ stop-arm. Law enforcement can then use the photos and/or footage to cite drivers for passing a stopped school bus.

Motorists would be fined $400, $750 and $1,000, for the first, second and third offenses, respectively.

“We already put cameras inside the school bus to protect the kids on the inside. Let’s put them on the outside in order to deter these drivers and stop them from passing these school buses illegally,” Cooper stated in a press release. Cooper officially signed the legislation at Lake Forest Elementary School in Greenville.

Drivers who are caught passing a stopped school bus face a Class 1 misdemeanor.

“Court appearance is mandatory for such charges; they are not the sort that may be paid and resolved by mail. Five license points are assigned to such a driver’s conviction if the driver was operating a noncommercial motor vehicle, eight if the person was driving a commercial motor vehicle,” according to the UNC School of Government. “If a driver willfully violates (the law) and strikes any person, he is guilty of a Class I felony. If a driver willfully violates (the law) and strikes any person, resulting in the death of that person, he is guilty of a Class H felony.”

More than 3,300 vehicles were reported illegally passing a school bus in a one-day, statewide count, according to a 2013 study from the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at North Carolina State University.

Last year, Pitt County Schools pledged to install stop-arm cameras on all of its buses. No such decision has been made in Beaufort County.

Superintendent Dr. Don Phipps said he supports the idea of stop-arm cameras, but he is not sure how Beaufort County Schools would pay for them, as there is no money left over in the budget to cover them.

“I like any action that helps increase student safety,” Phipps said. “Passing a stopped school bus is very dangerous, and anything that can reduce the likelihood of that occurring is positive.”