WILMINGTON — It is that time of the year, the time when the days start getting shorter and the sight of a school bus stopped on the road as children climb on with books in tow is common once again.
Summer is winding down in the Cape Fear region and by the end of the month, all the schools in Pender, New Hanover, and Brunswick counties will be back in session – but this year marks a change to the rules when it comes to school bus safety.
Governor Roy Cooper signed Senate Bill 55 into law on July 25. The law authorizes the use of photography or videography to enforce civil violations for passing a stopped school bus.
The new law allows county officials, by approving an ordinance, to install and operate cameras mounted on school buses. The cameras could be installed on any school bus operated by the local board of education in a county that has adopted such an ordinance.
According to the law, if a driver passes a bus while stopped and it is documented on camera, the county must provide notification of the infraction within 60 days. The registered owner of the vehicle will be held responsible for the infraction – unless the vehicle was in the care or control of another person.
Drivers who violate the ordinance would be guilty of a noncriminal violation, and the driver would not have points applied to their license. The cost of each ticket would be $400 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense, and $1,000 for each additional violation.
Although the law states the violations are noncriminal, a section in it does encourage criminal prosecution.
“The General Assembly of North Carolina encourages criminal prosecution for violation of G.S. 20-217 whenever photographs or videos recorded by an automated school bus safety camera provide evidence sufficient to support such prosecution,” the law states.
The law also outlines the proper appeal process for drivers.
According to the law, if a camera is installed on a school bus, there must also be a conspicuous warning sign posted on the vehicle. The wording of the law also makes clear that the bill does not require the installation and operation of safety cameras on school buses
Port City Daily reached out to New Hanover County Board of Education for a comment but had not received a response by time of publication.
Michael Praats can be contacted via email at Michael.email@example.com.