A new North Carolina law, signed by Gov. Roy Cooper on July 25, allows counties to adopt ordinances implementing the use of school bus safety cameras and issuing citations to motorists using the images taken by those cameras. Supporters of the legislation hope that increased penalties for passing stopped school buses will reduce the number of violations and decrease the risk to schoolchildren getting on or off the buses.

In North Carolina, any motorist who approaches a school bus from any direction is required to stop when the bus is stopped to allow students to board or depart the bus and is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing its red lights. Drivers may not continue to move or pass the school bus until (1) the mechanical stop sign is withdrawn, (2) the flashing red lights have been turned off, and (3) the bus has begun to move. See N.C. Gen. Stat. § 20-217(a).

The new law authorizes counties to install cameras to the exterior of its school buses and to impose civil penalties for violations of N.C. Gen. Stat § 20-217(a) (prohibiting the passing of stopped school buses). N.C. Gen. Stat. § 153A-246(b). A driver may be subject to citation based solely on an image taken from an automated school bus camera if law enforcement confirms that the image shows the driver acting in violation of the law. If a county chooses to adopt such an ordinance, it may issue a civil penalty of $400 for the driver’s first offense and $750 for the second. Each subsequent violation is subject to a penalty of $1,000. Any bus that has been equipped with a safety camera must clearly display a warning sign on the exterior of the bus, identifying the camera’s presence.

Any person cited in violation of the ordinance is permitted to a request a hearing within 30 days of receiving the citation. The written request for a hearing must state a legitimate basis for contesting the citation.

If you have been cited for passing a stopped school bus, or any other traffic-related matter, it is advisable to speak with an attorney. Dysart Willis has extensive experience in handling such matters and would be happy to assist you. Give us a call at 919-747-8380 to discuss your case.