RALEIGH, N.C. — Troopers across North Carolina are focusing on illegal passing of school buses and other school-related traffic violations this week as part of Operation Stop Arm.

The event coincides with National School Bus Safety Week, the theme of which is "At My Stop, You Stop!" this year.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation, the Department of Public Instruction and the State Highway Patrol held a joint press conference at the State Fair on Monday to increase awareness of school bus stop-arm safety.

Officials said that during Operation Stop Arm this week, troopers in every county of the state will concentrate their efforts on stop-arm violations and other traffic violations occurring near schools. Troopers will issue tickets, not warnings.

More than 14,000 school buses transport students to and from school each day in North Carolina. On an average school day, nearly 3,000 motorists in the state illegally pass stopped school buses — sometimes with tragic results.

“Sadly, in the last few weeks we have had one child killed and three others struck as they were attempting to get onto their buses,” State Highway Patrol Commander Bill Grey said. “This must stop. Whenever you see a stopped school bus, flashing lights and an extended stop arm, you should stop your car. It’s that simple.”

Grey said that motorists may not know where students are, so the safest thing to do — and what the law requires — is to stop.

“Remember: Don’t try to beat the bus. It’s not worth the life a child. If you do not, you could commit the greatest tragedy of all — you could kill an innocent child,” Grey said. “Please be careful on our highways. School is in session, and buses are on the roads. I ask you to join all law enforcement officers in helping us protect our children.”

Also giving remarks at the press conference were Dr. Ben Matthews, director of safe and healthy schools at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, and Tony Tata, secretary of the state Department of Transportation.

Operation Stop Arm started at 6 a.m. on Monday and ends on Friday.

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