Cameras a plus for school bus safety

There are no safety measures any more important than those that apply to school buses. Carrying some of our most precious cargo, buses share the road with hurried drivers trying to get to and fro in the least amount of time. While we get the busy world we live in, we believe it’s important for motorists to understand — and heed — the laws which help to ensure that school-aged children being transported to and from school arrive at their destinations safely.

That’s why we wholeheartedly support House Bill 55, adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Roy Cooper recently. The bill gives school systems across North Carolina the green light to install cameras that will capture footage of motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus.

We’ve seen the tragic consequences when school bus laws aren’t followed, and we believe strongly that any additional teeth that can be added to mandates that protect children and hold motorists accountable for illegal actions involving a school bus will be welcome safety nets.

At first glimpse, it would seem an unnecessary law. Why, after all, would a motorist have to be told more than once that passing a stopped school bus is not only against the law but dangerous for children? It nearly seems a no-brainer that motorists would simply not do it.

But we would be wrong to assume such a thing. The statistics bear it out. At a recent Sampson County Board of Education meeting, members were told that on a single monitored day, 20 drivers were caught disobeying the law, ignoring the school bus stop arm and passing the still bus.

Any one of those times could have ended in tragedy, with a departing child stepping away from the bus and into the path of a law-breaking motorists trying to get to their destination without any thought to the law that should have stopped them.

Fortunately no one was injured in any of those 20 incidents, or the dozens upon dozens of others that weren’t observed on any given day.

Now, with a new law in place, monitoring will be made easier and violators will be made to pay for breaking an all-important law that will save everyone the possibility of great heartache.

Under HB 55, violators caught on camera passing the stopped school bus can receive a ticket, pay a civil penalty or a fine of $400 or more. The camera footage can also be used by law enforcement to level criminal charges.

But the point is not the fines, though holding people accountable certainly will make many think twice before breaking the law. The point is avoiding tragic consequences to poor choices.

It is a poor choice to pass a stopped school bus. It puts children’s lives in danger. And that should be enough said.

We applaud state lawmakers and Cooper for actually agreeing on something important and working together to strengthen a law that is not only necessary but vital in protecting children.