County cracking down as drivers endanger students

MARVIN – Union County Sheriff’s Office deputies across the county are on alert for drivers passing stopped school buses, as some 40 drivers a day blow through stops and endanger kids’ lives, according to Union County Public Schools.
Deputy Ed Swan in Marvin is on the lookout for drivers breaking the law concerning stopped school buses. Drivers aren’t allowed to pass a school bus if it is stopped with its lights flashing and stop sign displayed. But that doesn’t stop some drivers, and officials in Marvin worry the estimate of 40 lawbreakers a day is likely far lower than the actual numbers.
“As soon as we heard of the issue we immediately sent Marvin’s Deputy Swan out to patrol.  He’s been patrolling the school buses in the afternoons and has been following the bus throughout the subdivisions,” Lisa Thompson, the village administrator and senior planner for Marvin, said.
The numbers have caused alarm in the county and worry for the safety of children getting on or off their school buses. Currently there have been no tag numbers collected, but the Union County Sheriff’s Office is developing a plan to get more officers in the area to decrease the problem.
“It’s definitely a problem we have to do something about.  We can’t have anyone passing stopped school buses,” Bill McGuirt, attorney sheriff for Union County, said.  “They are planning some surprises in the area for people and possibly getting some extra officers up there.”
Usually when someone passes a stopped school bus, the drivers send the information to Highway Patrol to handle. But since the problem has grown the sheriff’s office plans to work alongside the Highway Patrol.
“The Village wants people to be aware of the severity of this type of violation on one’s record, insurance and the impacts to the safety of the community,” Thompson said. “We continue to explore other variables that might be contributing to the problem and the degree to which other subdivisions are experiencing this same bus passing issue.”
When a school bus has its red lights flashing and the stop sign extended, all cars coming from all directions must come to a complete stop until the bus begins to move forward again, unless a median divides the driver’s lane from the stopped bus.  Those in violation of this law will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor without a chance to receive a prayer for judgment, four insurance points for reckless driving and will move into the high risk pool with their insurance company.
Moving into the high-risk pool of an insurance company can result in an increase of $800 per year for three years.
If a driver hits a child while passing a bus, the charge will be a Class I felony and if the violation results in a death the charge will be a Class H felony.
According to a news release from Marvin, “Automated camera and video recording systems may be used to detect and prosecute violations. Any photograph or video recorded by a camera or video recording system shall, if consistent with the North Carolina Rules of Evidence, be admissible as evidence in any proceeding alleging a violation.”
Along with cracking down on drivers passing school buses, Marvin also reduced the speed limit on Marvin School Road from 45 mph to 35 mph.  The change in speed limit will not go into effect until the state board meets in October and approves the changes.
“The Village has asked the State Department of Transportation to do a traffic study in order to reduce the speed limit from 45 to 35 mph. According to their study which considers the surface, type, width, number and types of intersections, it was concluded that the portion of Marvin School Road from the Bridle Path Estates subdivision to Rea Road needs to be reduced from 45 mph to 35 mph,” Thompson said.
Marvin is now working to reduce the speed into front of Marvin Elementary School on New Town Road.

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