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SPRING HOPE — Motorists on N.C. 581 in front of Southern Nash Middle School will notice a convenient change when students return to classes next week.
Over the summer, Nash-Rocky Mount Public Schools created a new entrance road for parents dropping off and picking up their children, meaning vehicles shouldn’t be lined up along the highway.
“We wanted to get waiting cars off 581 and onto school property,” said Shannon Davis, the school system’s director of maintenance.
Contractors cut through woods next to the school at 5301 N.C. 581 S. and paved a road for parents to use. The road lengthens the driveway for car-riding students.
“It’s a safety issue,” Davis said. “It should prevent traffic from stacking up on 581.”
The $375,000 project includes creating the new entrance road, repaving the entire school parking lot and resurfacing the highway in front of the school. The N.C. Department of Transportation is paying $75,000 for the work, with the school system footing the rest of the bill.
The new road means cars will drive around to the back of the school and buses will park up front.
“We’re swapping front entrance parking and moving buses to the front side,” Davis said.
Previously, parents coming for after-school sports would park in the bus parking lot close to the fields, leaving returning buses with nowhere to park. Switching parking lots should solve that problem, Davis said.
Cars lined up along N.C. 581 in the afternoons is dangerous and school officials secured the funding to take care of the problem, Davis said.
The school system fixed a somewhat similar situation in Bailey a couple of years ago by purchasing adjacent property where a house had burned down and creating additional parking. The added spaces helped alleviate parking along Pine Street in front of the school.
Davis said Middlesex Elementary has had very few traffic problems.
With school starting, there will be more buses on the roads and more children will be walking and biking to and from school, said state transportation spokeswoman Katie Trout.
“It’s critical that drivers know the rules of the road to keep everyone safe,” Trout said.
On average, cars pass a stopped school bus nearly 3,000 times every school day in North Carolina. Such situations are dangerous for students and against the law.
Near schools, be sure to pay attention while driving to see when a child is being dropped off or picked up. Never pass a vehicle that is stopped for pedestrians and always stop and yield to pedestrians crossing streets in crosswalks or at intersections in a school zone.
Penalties for passing a stopped school bus include a $500 fine and an additional four insurance points, which could increase insurance rates by 80%.
“It’s vital that drivers also slow down and obey the posted speed limit in a school zone — a child’s life could depend on it,” Trout said.
School Bus Passing Laws
• On a two-lane road, all traffic from both directions must stop.
• On a two-lane road with a center turning lane, all traffic must come to a stop.
• On a four-lane road without a median, traffic from both directions must stop.
• In the case of a divided highway with four or more lanes, only traffic following the school bus needs to stop.
• When on a road with four lanes or more with a center turning lane, just traffic following the bus must stop.