While most law-abiding drivers remember to check their speed every time they see a law enforcement vehicle, in the coming weeks state Highway Patrol cars will be out to remind drivers about school bus safety.
In Scotland County, school will return to session on Aug. 27, bringing an increase in vehicle traffic and the return of school buses to county roads. Traffic increases due to school and after school activities generally occur from 6-8:30 a.m. and 2-5 p.m.
“We’re doing some public service announcements on the radio and trying to get people in the mode of having school back in session,” said Sgt. Travis Harper of the North Carolina Highway Patrol. “I’m sure it’s going to take a couple of weeks to get used to the extra traffic.”
Drivers should be aware of the rules of driving around school buses, keeping an eye out for the flashing yellow lights that signal an impending stop.
“A school bus has many warning signs on it - if you see the yellow lights flashing on a school bus, that means that the bus is preparing to stop for kids,” said Harper. “When the red lights start to flash, you’re required to stop until the bus loads or unloads its passengers until the lights go off and that bus starts to move again.”
Travellers on Church Street may be impeded by traffic control at the entrance to Scotland High School, handled by the Laurinburg Police Department. The South Scotland Elementary School zone at the intersection of Barnes Bridge Road and Highway 501 also requires the occasional management of law enforcement, courtesy of the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office.
To help manage any trouble that may arise, the Highway Patrol will redesign its shift system to have extra troopers on hand during peak school traffic hours.
“We’re going to staff a little bit differently assigning troopers to school zones,” said Harper. “We’re actually changing our schedules to have more people available - going to a shorter day so that we can staff more people throughout the week. We’ll have a day shift and a night shift overlapping for afternoon traffic.”
In addition to increased traffic, drivers should also keep an eye out for children waiting at and travelling to bus stops in their neighborhoods.
“Sometimes, with the younger kids, their mindframe isn’t as much on safety as on having fun, so drivers need to be especially aware of children at bus stops,” Harper said.