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From the Desk of ACS Supt. David Burleson: Bus Safety for Students and Other Drivers

Sept. 8, 2014. To the Editor,

Supt. Burleson
Supt. Burleson

Safety in all areas is a top priority for Avery County Schools. Today, I would like to discuss the importance of school bus safety for our students specifically as it relates to school buses and their ‘stop-arm’ alert.

Avery County Schools operates 30 buses, traveling over 2,500 miles per day, using over 250 gallons of fuel and transporting over 1,000 students. According to the NC Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI), the school bus is the safest way for students to travel to and from school.

NCDPI Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham said. “A bus is ‘built like a tank’ and offers unmatched protection to school bus riders.” NCDPI School Support Division Director Ben Matthews said, “As more students ride the school bus, the environmental impacts are significant. Traffic congestion and pollution can be reduced, not to mention the fuel savings for family cars and budgets.”

As Brian King, director of ACS Transportation sated, “Most motorist are cautious and put safety first. But there are those times when we all get in a hurry and become somewhat careless. That is never a good excuse to jeopardize child safety.”

Here are some tips to ensure safety for our students:

Walking to the Bus Stop

Walk on the sidewalk or the left side of the road facing traffic. Never run.

Arrive five minutes early and wait in a safe place away from the road. Do not run and play while waiting.

Getting On and Off the Bus

Enter the bus in a line, younger students in front. Hold the handrail while going up and down the stairs.

Go directly to a seat. Remain seated and face forward during the ride.

Riding the Bus

Speak quietly. Remain silent when a bus comes to a railroad crossing.

Never throw things on the bus or out the windows. Keep the aisles clear at all times. Feet positioned directly in front of you; book-bags should be kept on your lap.

Never play with the emergency exits. Do not block the aisle or exits. If there is an emergency, listen to the driver and follow instructions.

Hands should be kept to yourself at all times.

Exiting the Bus

If items are left on the bus, never return to the bus to get it. The driver may not see you come back causing you danger. Make sure that drawstrings and loose objects are secure before getting off the bus.

Respect the “Danger Zone” which surrounds all sides of the bus. The “Danger Zone” is ten feet wide on all sides of the bus. Always remain 10 steps away from the bus to be out of the “Danger Zone” for driver visibility.

Cross the street in front of the bus. Never go behind the bus. If you drop something near the bus, leave it until you can speak with the bus driver.

Never speak to strangers at the bus stop or get into the car with a stranger. Always go straight home and tell you parents if a stranger approaches.

In addition to these rules, North Carolina has seen an increase in violations across the state for failure to stop when school buses have stopped for student pick-up or drop-off.

In 2011, measures to crack down on violations, the North Carolina Governor’s Highway Safety Program funded a pilot program, Stop-Arm Safety, to implement seven external video camera systems on school buses in five districts. In 2013, the North Carolina General Assembly appropriated funds to expand this program statewide. Currently, there are at least two school buses equipped with a stop arm camera system operating in nearly every school district in the state. Avery County Schools intend to have all buses equipped by the spring of 2015.

Statewide Stop Arm Statistics/Information

  •  Since 1998-99, 13 students have died as a result of motorists failing to stop for a school bus stop arm. Four students died in the 2012-13 school year.
  •  The number of vehicles illegally passing school bus stop arms in North Carolina has been consistently averaging more than 3,000 per day. (Reported by school bus drivers during an annual one-day statewide count coordinated by the Department of Public Instruction.)
  •  $1.38 million was appropriated by the North Carolina General Assembly to equip at least two buses in every school district with stop arm camera systems during the last school year (2012-13) and again this school year (2014-15). To date, several hundred school buses have been equipped with stop arm camera systems.
  •  Fines for illegally passing stopped school buses begin at $500. Any person who causes the injury or death of a child by passing a stopped school bus may be charged with a felony.
  •  Automatic cameras and video recording systems can be used to detect and prosecute those who pass a stopped school bus.
  • More than 800,000 of North Carolina’s 1.5 million public school students ride one of 13,400 school buses to and from school each day.

Reminders to Other Drivers as School Bus Approaches:

Two-lane road or two-lane road with a center turning lane: For passenger pick up, all traffic from both directions must stop.

Four-lane road without a median separation: For passenger pick up, all traffic from both directions must stop.

On a divided highway of four lanes or more with a median separation: For passenger pick up, only traffic following the bus must stop.

On a roadway of four lanes or more with a center turning lane: For passenger pick up, only traffic following the bus must stop.

All motorists in North Carolina must stop for and may not pass a stopped school bus designated for receiving or discharging passengers. (GS 20-217)

As a community, please join us as we intentionally work to put the safety of each student first! I want to personally thank each driver, mechanic and transportation team member for their hard work and commitment to schools and to the students they serve.


ACS Supt. David Burleson