Slow down: School starts today
By Beth Velliquette
The Daily Reflector
Monday, August 28, 2017
Slow down. Pay attention. Take a chill pill.
Today is the first day of school in Pitt County, and starting about 6 a.m., school buses will be out on the roads stopping frequently to pick up students; teen drivers will driving to school, and moms and dads will be trying to negotiate the traffic to drop their children off and still get to work on time.
In Pitt County, more than 23,000 will be going to school, and school and law enforcement officials want drivers to know they should be patient, be careful and leave a little extra time to get to work.
“That’s a lot of families on their way to school and kids on buses,” said Travis Lewis, director of community and student services for the school system. “It’s definitely going to change the morning commute for a lot of people to try to get to and from work.”
Yes, it’s frustrating to get behind a school bus and have it stop every couple of blocks to pick up or drop off kids, but the safety of the children is the most important thing and no one wants to see a child get hurt or killed on their way to or from school.
It’s a personal tragedy for the family and friends of the child, and it’s a community tragedy when something like that happens, Lewis said.
“I never want to go out to a scene where we’ve lost some of our students,” he said.
Since different schools open and close at different times, drivers need to be aware of school traffic, kids on bikes or kids walking to school between 6 and 8:30 a.m. and from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., Long said.
“Take your foot off the gas a little bit,” he suggested. “Be patient.”
On average, 218 yellow school buses travel 15,394 miles and transport 12,506 students daily in Pitt County.
The size of some schools, their location on busy roads, and the traffic pattern in and out of school makes for several trouble spots in the county, especially early in the year, officials said. Motorist will need extra patience in these areas, or alternative routes.
• N.C. 43 near Chicod School because of road construction.
• County Home Road near Wintergreen Primary and Intermediate on County Home Road.
• N.C. 43 and Worthington Road near D.H. Conley High School.
• Forlines, Frog Level, Davenport Farm and Thomas Langston roads in the area of Creekside Elementary, South Central High School and Ridgewood Elementary.
Arlington Boulevard, always one of Greenville’s busiest roads, gets even busier when J.H. Rose High School opens between Evans Street and Hooker Road.
Sgt. Mike Ross of the Greenville Police Department said traffic will definitely increase. Obey the speed limit. Obey the traffic laws, he said.
“Give yourself extra time to get to where you’re going,” he said.
The State Highway Patrol also plans to focus on safety in and around school zones. Motorists should be aware of an increase in school traffic and familiarize themselves with local school bus stop locations. Teen drivers will also increase as some will be driving to and from school for the first time.
“Ensuring the safety of students as they travel to and from school is a responsibility shared by everyone”, said Col. Glenn McNeill Jr., commander of the State Highway Patrol. “Our mission is to educate the motoring public on safe driving behaviors before, during and after school.”
Troopers statewide will monitor school bus routes, attempting to ensure motorists comply with stopping for school buses as they pick up and release students.
According to state law, motorists are required to stop when a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers.
Officials also encourage students to be sure all traffic has stopped before entering the roadway when boarding or exiting their buses.
During a one-day count in 2012, North Carolina school bus drivers witnessed 3,196 vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses at 2,299 bus stops, according to the N.C. Dept. of Public Instruction.
The violations occurred while the buses were stopped with the stop arm extended with flashing red lights, and children were in the process of embarking or disembarking buses, the site said.
Ross said vehicles going in both directions must always stop for a school bus that has its stop arm extended with one exception. On a four-lane road with a center turn lane or a median, vehicles traveling in the opposite direction as the bus do not have to stop, but vehicles traveling in the same direction of the bus must stop.
Examples of roads in Greenville where vehicles going in the opposite direction as the bus would not have to stop would be Memorial Drive, Greenville Boulevard and Charles Boulevard, Ross said.
On two lane and three lane roads, all vehicles must stop when a school bus puts out its stop arm.
Because there didn’t seem to be much of a decrease over the years in the number of vehicles passing stopped buses, this year the General Assembly passed and Gov. Roy Cooper signed a bill that authorizes counties that have automated school bus safety cameras on their buses to impose a civil penalty for violators.
The civil penalty for the first offense is $400; for a second offense is $750 and for any subsequent offense, $1,000. If the penalty isn’t paid, the N.C. Division of Motor Vehicles will refuse to register the motor vehicle.
Many Pitt County School buses have the automatic cameras on them, and the school system plans use them to catch people who pass stopped school buses, Lewis said.
“Because we have cameras on our buses now, they will get caught,” he said.
Contact Beth Velliquette at firstname.lastname@example.org and 329-9566.