Bill aims to boost school bus safety

Staff writerApril 8, 2009 

— School systems would be permitted to install cameras on school buses in an effort to catch drivers who pass stopped school buses, under a bill that cleared a key House vote Tuesday.

The bill requires one more vote before it moves to the Senate, but the House is expected to give approval to the bill, which is named for Nicolas Adkins, a Rockingham County teen who was killed this year as he was trying to board the bus to high school.

A dozen students used to wait for the bus at that stop, said Rep. Nelson Cole, a Reidsville Democrat and one of the bill's sponsors. After the incident, only one or two students used the stop because they were afraid of getting hit, he said.

The bill would allow the use of on-bus cameras to help identify drivers who pass a school bus that is stopped and loading or unloading children.

Passing a school bus that has its stop signs extended is a class 1 misdemeanor, the harshest moving violation in the state, said Rep. Dale Folwell, a Winston-Salem Republican and co-sponsor of the bus bill. Passing a bus and striking a child is a felony.

Folwell, whose son was killed 10 years ago when a vehicle passed a school bus, has sponsored a number of bills designed to force drivers to pay attention to buses' stop signs.

"Every year for the last four years, I had to run the school bus safety act, and every year I could have named it for a child that's been killed," Folwell said.

Folwell said he is not sure whether any school systems would install the cameras, but the bill is designed to ensure that the cameras could be used. The bill isn't meant to catch people. It's meant as a deterrent, he said. Every year, about 400,000 drivers pass a school bus that is loading or unloading children, Folwell said.

"Our intention is to never have to write another ticket or have another incident," he said.

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