School board member Bryce Beard cited for passing a stopped school bus
By Sarah Campbell
A Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education member, currently seeking his third term, pleaded guilty to passing a stopped school bus earlier this year.
Bryce Beard, a candidate for the Salisbury seat, was cited Feb. 23 by the N.C. State Highway Patrol while traveling east toward Salisbury on U.S. 70, a four-lane highway with a median.
His court date was July 9.
Acting on a tip, the Post investigated Beard's recent driving record, along with other school board members and candidates.
Beard said Thursday he was just topping a hill when he first saw the bus, which also was traveling east. He said he had the cruise control on his car set to 45 mph and had just received an important phone call.
"At first, it didn't register with me that the bus was slowing down," Beard said. "When it did register, I thought it was going to turn." By the time he realized the bus was coming to a halt, Beard said, he was too close to stop.
"The stop sign didn't come out until I was even with the bus, so no kids were in danger," he said. "After it happened I realized I should have known better.
"I made a mistake, I owned up to it, and I paid the fine."
State law requires traffic following a school bus on a divided highway with at least four lanes and a median separation to stop when the bus stops.
Beard said this is the first traffic ticket he has received in 40 years and he plans to make it the last. He paid a $50 fine and $205 in court costs, according to court records.
"I can say with certainty I'm real careful anytime I see a school bus now and this won't happen again," he said. "I live in the city, and I've stopped hundreds of times for buses, I'm very respectful of the bus drivers and, of course, I want the kids to be safe.
"The bottom line is it was a bad decision."
Beard said if he hadn't been distracted, he might have noticed the bus was stopping sooner.
"I was trying to pay attention to two things at once," he said. "I just think it's dangerous how much technology we have in our lives that can cause us to do dumb things."
The school system has ramped up its efforts to catch drivers who fail to halt for stopped school buses within the last year.
High-resolution camera systems, which can pick up the color and tag number of passing cars as well as the facial expressions of the driver, were installed on two of the district's buses last fall through funds provided by the Governor's Highway Safety Program.
School officials have said they not only want to catch violators, but also bring awareness to the issue.
During the one-day school bus stop-arm violation count held March 21, Rowan County had 47 passing incidents. The statewide count is held every spring.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.