-information from N.C. Department of Insurance and AAA
More than 1.5 million students across the state started a new school year today and AAA and the N.C. Department of Insurance have some important reminders when it comes to sharing the roads with buses transporting their precious cargo – schoolchildren.
It’s not new information, but the reminders bear repeating this time of year, with school bells ringing in Vance, Granville and Franklin counties. Schools on year-round calendars, charters and Warren County schools have been in session for a few weeks, but many other young people have enjoyed summertime for a bit longer.
N.C. Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey also serves as Chair of Safe Kids N.C., and he reminds everyone to keep safety in mind when walking, driving or riding the bus to school.
“We all have an important role to play in keeping our children safe,” said Causey. “Drivers need to be on the lookout for crowded crosswalks and school buses on the road and parents need to talk to their children about the importance of traveling to school safely. It only takes one mistake to cause a tragic injury or death to a child.”
Statistics highlight the need for a call to action. On a typical day, more than 14,000 school buses carrying nearly 800,000 students operate on North Carolina roads. According to DOT, there were 1,075 crashes involving school buses in 2022. A total of 786 people were injured and eight people died.
There were also 5,189 charges for speeding in a school zone and 968 charges for failure to stop for a stopped bus.
In addition to the safety concerns these charges carry, they also hold repercussions to motorists’ auto insurance premiums. Passing a stopped school bus can result in the motorist adding four insurance points to their policy and potentially doubling their auto insurance premiums.
As part of its School’s Open Drive Carefully campaign, AAA reminds motorists to:
- Slow down. Speed limits in school zones are reduced for a reason. A pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling at 25 mph is nearly two-thirds less likely to be killed compared to a pedestrian struck by a vehicle traveling just 10 mph faster.
- Come to a complete stop. Research shows that more than one-third of drivers roll through stop signs in school zones or neighborhoods. Always come to a complete stop, checking carefully for children on sidewalks and in crosswalks before proceeding.
- Eliminate distractions. Research shows that taking your eyes off the road for just two seconds doubles your chances of crashing.
- Share the road with bicyclists. Children on bicycles are often inexperienced, unsteady and unpredictable. Slow down and allow at least three feet of passing distance between your vehicle and a bicyclist.
- Talk to your teen. Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death for teens in the United States, and nearly one in four fatal crashes involving teen drivers occurs during the after-school hours of 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. Get evidence-based guidance and tips at TeenDriving.AAA.com.
Motorists are required to stop when approaching a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and STOP arms extended. The only exception is on a divided highway with a raised divider. Here’s a breakdown of the rules of the road as they relate to buses:
- Two Lane Street – All drivers moving in either direction on a two-way street must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
- Multi-Lane Paved Median – All drivers moving in either direction must stop for a school bus displaying a stop signal and must remain stopped until the road is clear of children AND the school bus stop arm is withdrawn.
- Divided Highway – Traffic approaching an oncoming school bus does not need to stop if there is a raised barrier such as a concrete divider or at least five feet of unpaved space separating the lanes of traffic. However, these motorists should slow down and watch for students loading or unloading from the bus.
Students who are walking or riding their bikes to school have some important safety reminders as well.
- Pay attention at all times. Avoid texting or wearing headphones, so you can detect nearby traffic.
- Use sidewalks where available. If not, walk against the direction of traffic so you can see oncoming vehicles.
- Make yourself easier to be seen by wearing reflective, bright colored clothing.
- Wear a helmet and neon or bright colored clothes.
- Ride in the same direction as traffic and stay as far to the right as possible. Use bike lanes when you can.
- Do not wear headphones so you can detect approaching traffic.
- Cross the street at intersections. Do not pull into the roadway from between parked cars.