Cameras capture drivers passing stopped school buses

Cameras capture drivers passing stopped school buses

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by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

WCNC.com

Posted on October 21, 2013 at 7:17 PM

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. -- Cameras mounted on Rowan-Salisbury school buses have caught 45 drivers blowing through the extended stop sign and flashing lights of a stopped bus, school officials say.

Forty three of those drivers have either been found guilty or pleaded guilty sinceC the district took part in a pilot program with the cameras to catch offenders and raise awareness about student safety.

NBC Charlotte looked into the problem in Rowan County after 17-year-old West Rowan High School student Makinzy Smith was hit and killed last week by a driver who didn't stop for the school bus.

The accused driver, Barbara Smith, 57, was in court Monday for her first appearance since the accident while Makinzy Smith's grandfather called for making school bus stops safer.

According to the NC State Highway Patrol, a one-day count in 2011 lead to bus drivers witnessing 3,196 vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses at 2,299 bus stops across the state.

"In one day? That is astounding, but I'm not really surprised, people don't pay attention," said former school bus driver Dee Christie.

Right now, passing a stopped school bus is a misdemeanor. Violators typically pay a $200 fine and get five points on their license.

"It's really like a slap on the hand for doing that, five points is nothing," Albanesi said.

The charge becomes felony if someone is hit and killed.

Unfortunately, that happened last Thursday on Woodleaf Road when Makinzy Smith died.

A new law with tougher penalties goes into effect in December. Drivers could lose their licenses.

"I don't know if it's ever enough you can do," Albanesi said.

Under the new law, people who don't pay their fines might not get their tags renewed.

Fine money will be earmarked for bus camera systems to catch offenders.

Monday also marks the beginning of "operation stop arm" where troopers are aggressively enforcing stop arm and other traffic violations in and around school zones.  

 

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