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NC troopers to enforce bus stop laws this week

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The North Carolina Highway Patrol says it will aggressively enforce laws this week that require drivers to stop for school buses.
    
The agency says Operation Stop Arm week will continue from 6 a.m. Monday through Friday. The patrol hopes the operation decreases violations and reduces school bus collisions.
    
Troopers in marked and unmarked vehicles will patrol school zones and follow buses through the week.
    
Since 1998, distracted drivers hit 13 students in North Carolina when they illegally passed a stopped bus or ignored its stop signal. That includes a 17-year-old boy who died last Thursday as he crossed a two-lane road northeast of Salisbury to board his bus.

"You can't hit a rewind button," says Pitt County trooper Doug Coley. "Once you pass a stopped school bus, a child runs out in front of you, you can't hit the stop button and wish it back."

That's why Kathy Bryant, a Pitt County bus driver, double-checks both lanes of traffic before letting her students get on or off her school bus.

"It scares me because I'm afraid I'm not going to have enough time to yell at the kid to stop him or her going in front of the bus, because you just don't know what a driver's going to do," she says. "If something happens to them children on your watch, it's with you for the rest of your life."

In her eight years as a bus driver, Bryant says people illegally pass her stopped school bus at least twice a day. In fact, on just one day last year, bus drivers across our state reported more than 3,000 people speeding past their bus' stop arm and flashing lights.

Coley says ignoring a stop signal is a Class 1 Misdemeanor that will cost you five points on your license and hike up your insurance rates. It's a felony if you hit someone.

Starting Dec. 1, a new law state with toughen penalties by increasing minimum fines and in some cases, revoking a driver's license.

They're changes Bryant hopes will deter dangerous drivers before it's too late.

"Stop because that could be your child walking off that bus," she says.

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