Officials remind drivers to wait for stopped school buses

Published 7:35 pm Monday, August 19, 2019

In less than a week, big yellow school buses and activity buses filled with students will once again be a common sight on Beaufort County’s roadways, and local officials are reminding drivers about the potentially fatal consequences of passing a stopped school bus.

It’s a problem that’s shockingly common in North Carolina — the North Carolina Department of Transportation estimates that, on average, there are 3,000 instances of cars passing stopped school buses every day, which can create a dangerous situation for kids.

“First and foremost, you want to make sure you’re not jeopardizing the welfare of any child,” Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman said. “At the same time, our transporters are well-trained. Our bus drivers are probably some of the best in North Carolina.”

Cheeseman says drivers regularly work with students to reinforce safety at the bus stop, including hand signals for crossing the street and how to cross safely. While kids and bus drivers are well-versed on these rules, many drivers are not. In a recent social media post from the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman encouraged drivers to familiarize themselves with the rules of when to stop for a school bus.

“Each year there are questions and some confusion about when to stop for a school bus that is stopped for the purpose of loading or discharging our children,” Beaufort County Sheriff Ernie Coleman said in the post.

Coleman referred drivers to a diagram produced by the N.C. Department of Motor Vehicles, which lays out the following rules:

  • On a two-lane road, all traffic from both directions must stop
  • On a two-lane road with a center turning lane, all traffic must come to a stop
  • On a four-lane road without a median, traffic from both directions must stop
  • In the case of a divided highway with four or more lanes, only traffic following the school bus needs to stop
  • When on a road with four lanes or more with a center turning lane, just traffic following the bus must stop.

For those who fail to follow the law with regard to stopped school buses, the consequences, at the very least, could include a $500 fine and four additional insurance points. At the worst, it could cost a child his or her life.

“Unfortunately, across our country every year, there are fatalities,” Cheeseman said, attributing many incidents to distracted driving, impatience and inattention. “ … We just ask people to have a little more patience. School buses are coming out very soon.”