RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina approved policy revisions governing school bus riders last week requiring bus drivers to use hand signals to help them safely cross the street and for student school bus safety training to be documented.
The North Carolina State Board of Education’s revised policy now requires all school bus drivers to use standard hand signals to let students know when it’s safe for them to cross the street. The first hand signal will tell students to wait to cross. The second signal, a “thumbs-up,” will let them know that they can cross the street, according to WNCN.
The new hand signal requirement is designed to accomplish two objectives: empowering the bus driver to ensure it is safe for students to step into the street, and making students stop and think, by looking at the school bus driver before they step into the street, according to the North Carolina State Board of Education.
The revision was prompted by statewide incidents in which five students were injured by motorists passing stopped school buses this year.
“Although there were no fatalities this year, it has been a particularly bad year for stop arm violation injuries,” said Derek Graham, North Carolina state director.
Another reason for the revisions: state data since 1998 show that over 3,000 cars per day do not stop for stopped school buses with their stop arms extended, and the state has had a number of fatalities.
“Public awareness has not been enough, so we have been moving for a few years toward implementation of the signal,” Graham explained.
Use of the hand signal is consistent with federal Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) requirements and the National School Transportation Specifications and Procedures. The signal that the North Carolina State Board of Education selected to tell students to wait before crossing the street is similar to one used successfully in New York, Graham said.
Part of the revised policy, in addition to requiring the use of the hand signals, is that school districts will now have to document the school bus safety training they provide to students and the date on which the training was provided. The revision also requires that students who do not ride the school bus also receive safety training.
Implementation statewide is not required until January, so some districts will phase in the training between now and then, but most training will likely take place before school starts next month, Graham said.
Similarly, Wake County Public School System recently implemented a new safety procedure requiring bus drivers to use a switch to extend the bus’ stop arm and turn on the red flashing lights, and then check traffic before deploying the crossing bar and opening the doors, according to WRAL.
Graham noted that the board’s revision is designed to bolster school bus drivers’ efforts to keep students safe.
“Since we know that public awareness efforts alone are not eliminating the problem, this policy revision empowers the school bus driver to get involved and protect kids in spite of the negligent actions of motorists,” Graham said.