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WCPSS bus safety initiatives

With the start of the new school year, the Wake County Public School System Transportation Department will launch a series of new initiatives focused on safety.

Bus drivers now have more control of the boarding process with a new switch installed on all yellow school buses thanks to the NC Department of Public Instruction funding. The switch allows the bus driver to separate the process of stopping motorists and boarding students.

New bus boarding process As in the past, school buses flash red lights and extend a stop arm to stop motorists at school bus stops. With the switch, bus driver can now check traffic before opening the bus door and extending the crossing bar guard located at the front of the bus.

Transportation has provided schools and the PTA with resources to teach students the new process for boarding the bus. The new rule being taught: Wait for the crossing bar guard to open fully, check traffic left and right and then walk to the bus.

Stop-arm cameras
Transportation has increased the number of school buses with stop arm cameras from two to 16 this year. The cameras photograph the license plate and driver of cars that illegally pass stopped school buses. The additional camera-equipped buses provide one in each school transportation district. The buses can be shifted to different routes as needed.

Transportation managers worked with law enforcement and prosecutors on establishing the process to use stop arm camera video to prosecute violators. Motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus pay a minimum fine of $500 and can be charged with a misdemeanor.

Student conduct cameras
After piloting on-board camera systems to monitor student conduct earlier this year, Transportation has installed 80 cameras, providing five in each transportation district. These buses can be shifted to different routes as needed.

The multiple cameras put on these buses record student conduct on the bus. Transportation will work with school administrators to appropriately discipline misbehavior on buses. Former WCPSS bus drivers have told administrators that pay and student conduct are reasons they are no longer driving. These new cameras will make riding the bus safer for students, improve student conduct and help retain bus drivers.

New technology will be added later this year at school bus offices across the county to make it easier for Transportation administrators to access the video.