RALEIGH, N.C. - State troopers will emphasize safety around school zones and buses this week during North Carolina's annual Operation Stop Arm enforcement effort.
The Highway Patrol, along with Department of Public Instruction and Wake County school representatives, will participate in a Monday news conference at the North Carolina State Fair to talk about the initiative.
Troopers plan to aggressively enforce stop-arm and other school-related traffic violations this week. In previous years, troopers have ridden on buses and in unmarked patrol cars.
In September, two mothers captured several drivers passing buses on Providence Road at Ardrey Kell in south Charlotte.
Channel 9 rode with Trooper Ray Pierce Monday morning as he followed a school bus from Huntersville to Davidson.
The bus made at least 11 stops and picked up students from several neighborhoods.
At one of the stops, multiple drivers saw the bus' stop arm and waited for students to cross the street and get on board.
"Most of the violations are on those open state maintained roads, Pierce said. "Luckily, the bus we followed today was in your smaller neighborhoods to where everyone luckily stopped -- did what they were supposed to."
Pierce said his presence alone likely helped.
North Carolina bus drivers involved in annual one-day counting exercises routinely record more than 3,000 vehicles breaking stop-arm rules.
A 2017 law gave counties the right to impose civil penalties on motorists caught on school bus cameras passing buses that are picking up or dropping off children.
In North Carolina, the fine for passing a stopped school bus is $200, plus five points on your license.
South Carolina is pushing to increase penalties for those drivers, including fines and years in prison.
Last week, the South Carolina State Highway Patrol reported close to 5,100 buses on the road every day across the state. From 2017 to 2018 there were reportedly 589 accidents statewide where a school bus was indirectly involved.
Four people were killed and nearly 175 people were hurt.
"Unfortunately, we see violations all across the state, Pierce said. "We hear excuses from, 'I didn't see the bus,' 'I'm a hurry,' 'I don’t have time,' -- that's why those fines keep creeping higher and higher."
The proposed penalties are as follows: Failure to stop is $500 or prison for about a month. Next, if someone is injured, that would be $500 to $10,000 and two months to a year in prison. Finally, if someone dies, that would be $10,000 to $25,000 and one to five years in prison.
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