Fired school bus driver insists his maneuver was safe

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A school bus operator who lost his job in June 2014 defends his actions.

Charlie Harris had been driving school buses for Wake County for seven years. Before that, he had 25 years driving big-rig trucks.

So he has experience. And he insists the maneuver he made, that was caught on video -- and got him fired -- was the safest option.

It was June 2014, that ABC11 eyewitness Ted Butts brought us his cell-phone video of Wake County school bus No. 405 on Riley road in Wendell making what Butts believed to be a "risky maneuver, " crossing the yellow line, reversing in the road, to reach a bus stop.

"I always notice this bus doing the same thing," Butts said.

And just days after our story aired, the man behind the wheel of bus No. 405 was fired.

It was Harris, a grandfather, who stopped driving trucks to operate school buses, who lost his job.

When asked why he wanted to speak out now, after a year-and-a-half since he lost his job, Harris replied: "I didn't get a chance to tell my part of the story."

Harris insists the maneuver was safe. That he always used warning lights. Made sure there were no oncoming vehicles. And that it was clear on all sides of the bus.

"As long as I had enough distance with the vehicle behind me, and they were aware of it, then I made my turn," Harris said.

Harris called his decision the safest choice he had.

"Buses have their stop arms out, vehicles will pass you," Harris explained. "So for the safety of the child, I made that maneuver. There are times that we as bus drivers, that we have to make decisions that are not in line with Wake County, but it's for the safety of children."

Wake County schools' transportation department disagrees with Harris' assessment.

District policy is "no backing up," unless there is no other option. And crossing the yellow line is never allowed, unless making a proper turn onto another street.
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