Statewide 'Safe to School' Month emphasis at NC Transportation Museum

Spencer, NC (WBTV) - The N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program, the N.C. Department of Transportation and the N.C. Department of Public Instruction participated in the  "Safe to School Month" and the 100th anniversary of school bus transportation in North Carolina in a special event in Spencer on Wednesday.

Transportation and education officials talked about  school bus safety, including: N.C. Governor's Highway Safety Program Director Mark Ezzell,  N.C. Department of Public Instruction Transportation Services Section Chief Kevin Harrison, Rowan County Schools Transportation Director Tim Beck, N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles School Bus and Traffic Safety Supervisor Gary Sims Jr., and local officials.

Mount Ulla Elementary teacher assistant Stacey Webb spends about 90 minutes every morning behind the wheel of a school bus.

"I truly like driving the bus, it gives me a connection with children that I don't have in class," Webb said, and while she enjoys it, she says she does see some things that frighten her. "It does anger every bus driver when cars have a total disregard to the children's safety."

Four years ago a student was killed at a bus stop in western Rowan County because a driver wasn't paying attention.

Law enforcement and bus drivers are paying closer attention to those drivers now.

"This year there were were 1444 charges for failure to stop for a stopped school bus," Ezzell said.

New safety features, such as cameras and extended stop arms, were also part of the discussion.

"20 of our 185 buses actually has an extended stop arm, it extends an additional four feet into the opposite lane of travel," said Tim Beck.

The level of improvement means a lot to bus drivers like Stacey, she just wishes drivers would be a little more aware of buses on the road

"A lot of drivers don't want to slow down when they see the flashing yellow light, but you have to remember, those are somebody's children," Webb added.

The event highlighted the progress the state has achieved in providing safe school bus transportation since September 1917, when the former Oriental Consolidated School District in Pamlico County started using a 30-passenger "truck" to take students to and from school.

On display was a 1940 Thomas bus and the state's most up-to-date bus, a 2018 Thomas 72-passenger model with three-point seat belts.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed September as "Safe to School Month" to highlight the importance of practicing safe driving in school zones, around school buses and pedestrians.

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