RALEIGH: Drivers passing stopped school buses is an 'epidemic' - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Highway Patrol: Drivers passing stopped school buses is an 'epidemic'

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Lt. Jeff Gordon Lt. Jeff Gordon
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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The State Highway Patrol is concentrating on school bus violators this week as the traditional school year begins.

A state Department of Public Instruction survey in March found more than 3,000 vehicles passed stopped school buses every day in North Carolina. And with more than 13,000 school buses on the road, law enforcement agencies like the Highway Patrol can't be everywhere to catch drivers who pass stopped school buses.

"It seems to be increasing, believe it or not," said Lt. Jeff Gordon with the Highway Patrol. "It's an epidemic problem."

But now they are getting a bit of extra help from technology.

Some school buses now have cameras, and those videos allow police to prosecute people who pass stopped school buses in violation of North Carolina law.

Not all North Carolina school buses are equipped with cameras. For example, the Department of Public Instruction said Wake County has 928 buses but only two with stop-arm cameras, Cumberland County has 444 buses but only two with cameras, and Durham County has 260 buses but only three with cameras.

  • Click Here for a list of school bus stop-arm cameras by school district

That means police need extra help in catching some of the violators and are counting on drivers to help spot those drivers who fail to stop for buses.

"What we want you to do is get as much information as possible about the vehicle, and driver description and the registration tag," Gordon said. "After that, we'll take that information and investigate."

  • Click Here for a map showing stop arm violations in each county

Since 1999, 13 children have been killed in North Carolina by drivers who passed stopped school buses. Those tragedies devastate the families of those who died and also those who respond.

"Ten years ago, I had a call one early morning [that] a child was getting on a school bus and someone failed to stop," Gordon recalled. "To this day, it's still burned into my memory.

"We see a lot of tragic things, but when you sprinkle in a child ... it makes that situation more worse."

This week, the Highway Patrol will be tailing school buses to try and catch as many violators as possible. By Friday, the patrol will know exactly how many citations have been issued after the Highway Patrol totals its statewide efforts.

"You're going to probably spend 2 minutes at the most waiting on a stopped school. It's not worth taking that risk," Gordon said.

WNCN's Jonathan Rodriguez contributed to this report.

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