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Gov. signs bus safety bill in Greenville

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GREENVILLE, Pitt County - Gov. Roy Cooper was in Greenville Tuesday afternoon to sign Senate Bill 55, which adds new tools to catching drivers who speed past stopped school buses in city streets.

Drivers who illegally passed stopped school buses have killed 15 students in our state since 1999. Just this past March, a 16-year-old Onslow County boy was killed when a driver failed to stop at a stopped school bus.

"Speeding past a stopped school bus puts children's lives at risk, sometimes with tragic results," said Cooper, who began pushing for this law change as attorney general back in 2014. "With this new law in place, we have another tool to help children who ride the school bus travel safely."

Authorities said about 3,000 times each school day in our state, a driver -- sometimes distracted -- illegally passes a stopped school bus.

"Before they know it, when they look up, they have already passed the stop sign," Pitt County school bus driver Erick Edwards said. "But what they don't understand is, that's somebody's life that you could have taken away only because you were not being mindful.

Sometimes, bus drivers can catch the license plate of violators. Sometimes they can't. This measure should aid in that process.

The bill allows for red-light cameras to be used to flag drivers who pass school buses that are stopped with their stop signs outstretched. Additionally, the bill will allow school districts in the state to install cameras on school buses or capture photos or videos of drivers who break the law in this way.

The new law allows for a civil penalty or fine of $400 or more for violators and allows law enforcement agencies to bring criminal charges if needed.

To learn more about school bus safety in North Carolina, visit ncbussafety.org/Safety/index.html .

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