STONEVILLE, N.C. — Nearly four years ago, Nicholas Adkins was crossing the street to board his school bus here when he was struck by a vehicle that failed to stop for the bus.
The 16-year-old was killed in the January 2009 stop-arm running incident. Later that year, North Carolina legislators and the governor passed the Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act, which added two major provisions to existing school bus stop law:
• If a driver illegally passes a school bus and a child is killed, the driver would now be charged with a Class H felony, which carries increased penalties and jail time compared to the previous law.
• School districts were authorized to mount cameras outside the bus, on or near the bus’ stop arm. Footage from these cameras became admissible as evidence in court.
In the summer of 2011, a pilot program began in which stop-arm camera systems made by Fortress Mobile were installed on school buses in five North Carolina counties.
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, as of October 2012, 23 stop-arm violation citations had been issued among the five piloting counties as a result of the camera system.
In a one-day tally in 2012, North Carolina school bus drivers counted 3,196 vehicles illegally passing their buses. (The national count last year was 88,025 violations in a day.)
State pupil transportation director Derek Graham told SBF that five students have been struck by motorists passing school buses in North Carolina this school year. Two of those students were killed.
With the Jan. 26 anniversary of Nicholas Adkins’ death approaching, his father spoke with WFMY News 2, and he gave a stark reminder of the dangers of stop-arm running.
"People need to realize what they're doing. They're taking people's lives in their hands when they pass a stopped school bus — plain and simple," William Adkins told the news outlet. “When you're going through somewhere that you know every day they're picking up kids, at a school bus stop, you pay attention. It only takes a split second when you've got several thousand pounds of steel hitting a child. It's over and done with. That's it. There's no taking it back."