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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — The ticket for passing a stopped school bus in North Carolina is now more than double the old penalty.

State officials say since 1998, 13 students have died in North Carolina after someone ignored the stop lights at a bus stop. A new law and campaign in one local county hope to bring those drivers to a stop.

“I pray a lot when they come across the road,” Brunswick County bus driver Denise Patton said. “Cell phones drive me crazy.”

She’s a second line of defense to keep Brunswick County students safe.

“I said, ‘Erica, we’re not doing this. I’m going to pick you up last, drop you off last, so you don’t have to cross the road again,” Patton said about how she decided to protect one student.

Patton is one of many hoping stiffer penalties for passing a stopped school bus will, stop, the problem. The new law, which went into effect Sunday, increases the fine to a mandatory $500 on top of the five-point penalty on your driver license.

On top of the new law, the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office is launching a new bus safety campaign.

“The first part of this is an educational outreach to the community, let them know we have these issues,” 1st Sgt. Jeremiah King said.

And to clear up confusion, oncoming traffic must stop unless on a road with four or more lanes there is a center turn lane or raised median. If in doubt, stop, so that these students can go to school safely.

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