North Carolina - North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory will sign or veto the future of school bus safety in the state, as it is laid out in bill that has passed through the general assembly and is now on his desk. His representative said the governor has not released a statement on whether he will sign the bill, but he has until Saturday to do so.
Drivers found in violation of the provisions laid out in House Bill 428, co-sponsored by a NC House democrat and NC House republican, would face stiffer penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus with its extended stop arm and flashing red lights.
Drivers who pass buses in this stopped loading or unloading position would be guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor, pay a minimum fine of $500 and have their licenses revoked for one year. Drivers who pass a stopped school bus and strike a person would receive a class I felony, minimum fine of $2,500 and two-year license revocation. Drivers who pass a stopped school bus and fatally hit someone, they would be guilty of a Class H felony, have to pay a minimum fine of $5,000 and have their licenses revoked for three years.
Additionally, fines collected from violations would be used to purchase more camera systems, which already are being installed on buses in several counties, including Guilford County.
The bill is formally known as the Hasani N. Wesley Students' School Bus Safety Act. Hasani Wesley was a sixth grader at East Forsyth Middle School when he was struck and killed by a driver upon crossing the street to board his school bus in December. Shortly after the accident, Billy Roger Bailey of Forsyth County was charged with passing a stopped school bus and striking and killing a child-a felony.
WFMY News 2 spoke with Darrell Walker, the assistant superintendent of operations at Forsyth County Schools, on Monday. He talked about the implications the bill would have on Triad school systems, saying he does believe the bill's provisions will at least encourage drivers to slow down when near school buses. He also said the district is working to implement both volunteer bus stop monitors and a student tracking system based on internal bus cameras.
Walker also assessed whether the bill's provisions would speed up the process by which Forsyth County buses will have cameras installed. He said the system already has enough funding to install cameras on 50 buses, and he expects to finalize the remainder of the project within the next few weeks.
If the governor signs the bill into law, it would go into effect on Dec. 1.