A total of 151 students were on the buses. Thirty-eight were treated at the scene or taken to Wake and Chatham area hospitals for minor injuries.
"In this particular case, we had our multiple transport bus - that we put 20 kids in - that we took to Wake Med Cary and others are divided up to other hospitals," explained Jeff Hammerstein with Wake EMS.
It happened around 10:30. Pictures from Chopper 11 HD showed two buses end-to-end in the same lane at the intersection and another in the median further down the highway.
According to an official with Asheboro schools, it was a chain reaction accident and the three buses rear-ended each other at the red light.
The students were all 8th graders who attend North Asheboro Middle. Their principals and another senior staff member came to the scene and arranged transportation back to school for the unhurt students.
"Even though some kids have been taken to the hospital, there are no life threatening injuries and that is a great relief to us," said Dr. Brad Ric with Asheboro City Schools.
The group was on a field trip to a museum in Raleigh when it happened.
ABC11 Eyewitness News was told none of the bus drivers had driving infractions and that they undergo a strict background check and emergency training.
Cary police said bus driver Boyce Goldston is now charged with failure to decrease speed.