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Originally published: 2013-08-22 08:33:00
Last modified: 2013-08-22 08:33:43

Our View: School bus safety is driver's top priority

Because the roughly 16,000 Appalachian State University students aren't the only ones returning to school this week, it's important that motorists maintain extra caution, especially during early morning and afternoon drive times.
School buses are again on the road, and during the busy morning and afternoon hours are filled with children entering and exiting the vehicle.
Because the onus is on the driver of other vehicles to remain alert and stop when a school bus posts flashing red lights -- even if the stop arm is not displayed -- the fines for passing a stopped bus are steep. With newly enacted legislation, the minimum fine is $500 and five points on a driver's license if convicted. If a child is struck during the process, the fine escalates, and in no instance will a prayer for judgment be received for passing a stopped school bus.

Those fines are in line with the action: In North Carolina in 2012, four students were killed while crossing the street to or from a bus - and three of those deaths were the result of motorists illegally passing a stopped school bus.

And lest we think that even these are not common occurrences, consider that during last year's statewide School Bus Stop Arm Violation Count, the day when all N.C. school districts tally how many drivers passed stopped school buses, the total number of motorists passing a stopped bus was 3,316 - a typical day that included eight violations in Watauga County.

Driver distraction coupled with children eager to depart or enter a school bus can be a deadly mixture. Road safety is every driver's No. 1 priority - especially when school buses are involved.