With K-12 students across the state returning to classes, the N.C. Department of Transportation issued some timely reminders about looking out for school buses and students on foot.  

A few Wilkes County school buses are already on the road with the start of classes at Wilkes Early College High School early last week, but the remainder of the fleet will roll starting Aug. 26.

It’s critical that drivers know the rules of the road to keep everyone safe.

The DOT says that on average, there are nearly 3,000 incidents of cars passing stopped school buses every school day in North Carolina. In addition to being dangerous for students, it’s against the law.

Pay close attention when driving at or near a school or in residential areas to see when children are being dropped off or picked up. You never know when a child will dart off in an unexpected direction.

Remember to never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians, and always stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection in a school zone when flashers are blinking.

School bus passing laws

It’s important to know the rules to safely share the road with school buses. Give each bus plenty of space and know the rules for passing them on various types of roads.

• on a two-lane road, all traffic from both directions must stop;

• on a two-lane road with a center turning lane, all traffic must come to a stop;

• on a four-lane road without a median, traffic from both directions must stop;

• in the case of a divided highway with four or more lanes, only traffic following the school bus needs to stop; and

• when on a road with four lanes or more with a center turning lane, just traffic following the bus must stop.

In the six-month period from August 2018 to March 2019 nationwide, 12 children were killed and another 47 were injured while getting on and off school buses. Bus stop-arms were extended at the time, which means motorists were required to come to a full stop.

Penalties for passing a stopped school bus in North Carolina include a $500 fine and an additional four insurance points, which could increase insurance rates by 80%.

Slow down

It’s vital that drivers also slow down and obey the posted speed limit in school zones, especially during the hours schools are open.

A child’s life could depend on it.

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