Though North Carolina’s Operation Stop Arm campaign concluded Oct. 25, the State Highway Patrol (SHP) will continue patrolling school zones during peak hours to ensure student safety.
The weeklong enforcement campaign promotes traffic safety around schools, school buses and school bus stops as part of a national program designed to educate drivers on the dangers of illegally passing school buses.
Sadly, on the first day of the campaign, 17-year-old Makinzy Smith was struck and killed as he crossed the road to his waiting school bus. Since January, five children have lost their lives in North Carolina as they approached or left the school bus stop.
Troopers in both marked and unmarked cars followed more than 671 school buses across the state to remind motorists of the dangers that exist in and around school buses. They issued 18 citations to motorists who failed to stop for a school bus. It is estimated that more than 2,000 drivers violate North Carolina’s school bus stop-arm law each weekday.
“Our No. 1 priority is to ensure the safety of our children,” said Col. Bill Grey, SHP commander. “To accomplish this, we must work together to reiterate the consequences that can result when a driver fails to yield to the flashing lights of a stopped school bus.”
In August, the “Hasani N. Wesley Students’ School Bus Safety Act,” named after the boy struck and killed at his school bus stop last December, became law and toughened penalties for offenders. Now, motorists who fail to stop for school buses that are in the process of loading or unloading students can lose their driver’s license for a year or more, in addition to other penalties.
According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Association, approximately 24 children are killed in school bus accidents in an average year. One-third of student fatalities are a result of motorists who fail to stop for the school bus, and one-third are pedestrians who are killed as they approach or leave the school bus stop.
Additionally, troopers issued 5,362 traffic and criminal violations in and around schools statewide, including 66 child safety seat violations, 583 seatbelt violations and 2,587 speeding violations.
In 2012, the SHP followed nearly 1,000 school buses and charged 16 motorists for passing a stopped school bus, 206 with driving while intoxicated, 3,245 for speeding, 577 for driving while license revoked and several thousand other traffic violations.