Onslow Co. Schools releases data on drivers who pass stopped school buses

ONSLOW COUNTY, N.C. (WNCT)–Following yesterday’s tragic accident where Onslow County teen, David Palacio, died while trying to board his school bus, the school system is releasing the number of drivers passing stopped school buses during an average day.

That data is part of the statewide Stop Arm Violation Count conducted every year. It’s a one-day total of drivers who knowingly pass stopped school buses.

On March 22, 79 drivers passed stopped school buses across the county.

“Every year we try to do something to help,” Suzie Ulbrich, PIO for the school system, said. “We add more cameras every year because really we find that is the way we can actually address the situation with reporting it.”

The school system will also test out 10 longer stop arms that will extend into the opposite lane this coming school year.

Last year, 99 drivers passed stopped buses and in 2015, 80 drivers.

The main highways in the county frequently see the most illegal passing. Ulbrich says those are Western Boulevard, N.C. 53 and Piney Green Road.

Since the 1998-1999 schoolyear, 13 students in North Carolina have died while trying to either board or exit their school buses. Monday’s incident brings that number up in our state to 14.

Onslow County parents are asking what can be done to make their children safer while boarding the bus.

“I really think the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office needs to be doing more about it,” mother of three, Elizabeth Goodwin, said. “I think the bus people need to try to fix the situation because it can’t always be up to the bus driver.”

The sheriff’s office says while it would like to be able to assign deputies to monitor bus stops, it doesn’t have the manpower to do so.

In North Carolina, you must stop for a school bus even when the amber lights are on.

The only exception is when you’re driving in the opposite direction on a four-lane or more highway with either a median or a center turn lane.

Failure to do so is a Class One felony carrying a $1250 fine.

The school system says it hopes a proposed bill in the state legislature will be passed in order to help mitigate this issue. State Bill 55 was introduced into the General Assembly this year. It would allow counties to assess civil penalties for passing a stopped school bus on top of the state law.

A vigil for David Palacio will be held Friday, March 31 at the Freedom Fountain in downtown Jacksonville. It will run from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

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