RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Board of Education has approved revisions to its school bus policy requiring bus drivers to use hand signals at bus stops to ensure student safety.
The board approved the revision Thursday morning and comes after five students this year in North Carolina were injured by drivers passing stopped school buses.
Thirteen children have been killed since 1999.
Bus drivers will now be required to use a standard hand signal to tell students when it’s safe to cross the street.
“The whole idea is to get the child’s attention. No crossing the street with earbuds in,” said Derek Graham with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.
By January, the bus drivers will give one more layer of security through hand signals.
Graham said the first hand signal tells the students to wait.
“And when it appears that it’s OK to the school bus driver, then they’ll do the ‘thumbs up’ and what that says to the kids is it’s time to start crossing the street,” Graham said.
Wake County school bus driver Spencer Jenkins said kids will need to learn to watch the bus driver.
He has been a school bus driver for more than 20 years and he likes the new hand signal system.
“I think it’s a good idea. I think it’s another way to help cut down on kids being hit by cars,” Jenkins said. “On the other hand, look at the other side of it. When it’s dark, kids can’t see us on the bus.”
Graham stressed communication between driver and student if it is dark outside.
“If there are no street lights and the signal is absolutely not visible, using the drivers dome light at least the student will have been trained to exercise caution and look carefully both ways,” Graham said.
But if it helps improve safety, he and state officials are all for it.
“Once they get on the bus, we know that’s the safest way to get to and from school,” Graham said.
Wake County is already starting a new procedure where kids will wait for both the stop arms and a yellow stop stick to go out before they should walk to the bus.
These new hand signals will be done in addition to that.