CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Every school day in North Carolina, drivers pass stopped school buses, violating state laws requiring drivers to yield when a bus's stop arm is extended.
"Over 3,000 cars per day in North Carolina pass a stopped school bus illegally while it's stopped to pick up kids," said Derek Graham, section chief of transportation services at the N.C. Department of Public Instruction.
"The biggest safety problem for kids is not on the school bus itself — that's the safest way to get to and from school — it's getting on and off the bus," Graham said.
Since 1999, 13 students have been killed while boarding or exiting a school bus; and four of those deaths occurred in the 2012-13 school year alone. In the 2014-15 academic year, five North Carolina students were injured by motorists passing stopped school buses.
A pilot program funded by the state has equipped more than 400 buses with new camera systems.
Now, surveillance videos show what the state's bus drivers have seen for years.
"The cameras are rolling at every bus stop," Graham said.
Still, the program is limited in scope.
According to numbers from DPI, Mecklenburg County has the largest fleet of school buses, with nearly 1,000 on the road that day. 723 vehicles passed stopped school buses in Mecklenburg County that day.
Wake County, the most comparable county in the state, had 928 buses on the road. 440 vehicles passed stopped buses.
Under North Carolina law, G.S. 20-217, drivers going either direction must stop when a school bus is stopped to let children off unless it is on a four or more lane highway divided by a median or a four or more lane road with a center turning lane. Drivers are not supposed to continue until the bus has completed dropping the children off and begun to move again.
The cue is the bus's lights. The bus will first flash yellow lights indicting it is about to stop.
Drivers who are convicted of passing school bus face a $500 fine, a hefty five points on their driver's record and are not eligible for a prayer for judgment.
A driver who passes a stopped school bus and hits someone will face a Class I felony and a minimum of $1,250. The penalty rises to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if someone is killed.
WBTV is joining other media outlets, including WNCN in Raleigh, in encouraging everyone to spread the word. Tell your friends, your family members, and most importantly talk to your kids. Spread the word on social media using #Brake4Buses. You could save a life.