SOMERSET, N.J. — Transportation officials for the Franklin Township School District have a new safety tool at their disposal.
Six months ago, district mechanics installed a Gatekeeper GSX-900 digital video camera on the dashboard of a Ford Windstar, and turned the camera around so that it would capture activity in front of the vehicle.
Transportation Supervisor Gary Peatick said he wanted to implement a system that would monitor student behavior near school buses. "I was out on the road following a bus and some kids on the side of the road threw a bottle at the bus," he said. "I didn't have a camera with me at the time, and I thought that if I had something on video, I could've taken it to the police or to the school to identify the kids." Moreover, he has received complaints about student behavior at bus stops.
This system allows Peatick and Safety Coordinator Betty Lewis to curb troublesome behavior. "We can park down the street, observe the behavior and then have a record of it so we can review it with the school's principal and talk to the kids' parents," he said.
Peatick also uses this system to assess the performance of bus drivers and the safety of children. After Lewis observes each bus, she and Peatick review the camera footage daily and take note of problems. For instance, Peatick says they may look for "a bus driver failing to use their red and yellow warning lights, or a bus driver leaving and a student crossing the street behind the bus." When problems like these occur, they can show the tape to the parties involved and ensure that they receive information on the proper safety procedures.
Peatick is having a system installed in his Windstar (the district has a fleet of 10 minivans — Windstars and Caravans) so he and Lewis can monitor buses separately.