Friday, December 1, 2023

It’s officially ‘getting stuck behind a school bus’ season

Knowing exactly when and where buses will be on school-day mornings is tricky, but the effort might be worth it.

School is back and that means traffic increases during morning and afternoon commutes thanks to school buses and more drivers on the roads (Port City Daily/Ben Schachtman)

WILMINGTON — School is back in full swing, which means the return of school buses to streets. While buses serve a necessary purpose, they also add to congestion on the roads and can make morning commutes even longer than before.

Getting stuck behind a school bus can be frustrating, especially along two-lane roads like Gordon Road in northern New Hanover County — but with a little bit of planning drivers can help avoid the traffic.

According to Director of Transportation Ken Nance, school buses for New Hanover County are generally on the roads starting at 6:15 a.m. until 8:45 a.m.

Exact routes for the different buses can be found online so drivers can see exactly when they can expect delays; New Hanover County Schools doesn’t provide a route map, but does post approximate times for each stop along the route for individual schools — with a little work drivers can figure out when buses will be using major roads.

School buses stopping on major roads can be frustrating, but logistically it is not practical to send the buses into individual neighborhoods, according to Nance.

“Our buses travel about 12,000 miles each day picking up about 12,000 students making about 4000 stops. Most buses are on the road from about 6:15 till 8:45. If we drove into every neighborhood, we would never get the students to school on-time,” Nance said.

Though some parents might want buses to come into private subdivisions, North Carolina statute states that buses are not required to enter private roads.

According to NHCS, “G.S. 115C-246(b) states, ‘unless road or other conditions make it inadvisable, public school buses shall be routed on state-maintained highways, municipal streets, or other streets with publicly dedicated right-of-way.’It is up to the local board of education to determine what other conditions might require or preclude the routing of school buses on private roads.”

School bus safety

In reality, it is not likely drivers can avoid school buses all together so knowing the rules of the road is a plus. One of the biggest safety issues is drivers passing stopped school buses.

As reported last year, passing a stopped school bus that has the stop sign extended is not only unsafe, but it is against the law. Governor Roy Cooper passed a law in July of last year that allows local governments to install cameras on the exterior of buses to catch those breaking the law and passing the stopped vehicles.

Related: NCDOT reminds drivers of the rules of the road when school buses are stopped

For drivers who break the law and are caught doing so via an on-board camera, the fines range from $400 all the way up to $1,000, depending on the number of previous violations. Although being caught on camera does not result in an automatic criminal charge, police officers can use the video as evidence to help bring charges against the driver, according to NCDOT.

NC School Bus Stop Law INCDOT by Michael James on Scribd

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