Staged photo by Brevard Public Schools (Fla.)
The issue of drivers illegally passing school buses as children load and unload continues to present itself as school bus operators work to ensure child safety.
Despite the fact that motorists are required to stop when a bus’s stop arm is deployed, many drivers still pass, resulting in children continuing to be endangered. A viable solution to help with this problem came with the addition of stop-arm cameras to monitor and capture driver violations.
Following the captured footage of stop-arm violators, depending on the state or county’s laws, law enforcement would ticket the violators in the same way red light violators are ticketed after a camera records them. Since the introduction of stop-arm cameras, companies industrywide have monitored results, checking to find what kinds of stop-arm camera programs have worked for customers, and why.
Since there are still so many stop-arm violations, there is a clear need for enforceable consequences for drivers. Though citations are the agreed upon method of enforcing these violations, officials examine how exactly to catch drivers and prosecute them to prevent additional violations in the future.
Charles Territo, the senior vice president of communications, marketing and public affairs for American Traffic Solutions, which has partnered with AngelTrax in the distribution of these stop-arm systems, points out that it isn’t realistic to assume that school districts can afford to install outside cameras on all of their school buses. However, this doesn’t prevent districts from running successful programs.
“What you need to do is make sure you have cameras on the buses on the most dangerous routes, and to implement an aggressive public relations program that informs drivers in the community that the buses and the cameras are operating. Just like you don’t have red light cameras at every intersection; there is a halo effect that occurs,” Territo says.
With its system, American Traffic Solutions issued 14,000 school bus stop-arm violations across more than 20 districts in the 2013-14 school year. Territo goes on to explain that the most violations occur equally in the morning and the afternoon at 7 to 8 a.m. and 3 to 4 p.m., and that Wednesday is the day of the week with the most reported stop-arm violations.
Jody Ryan, the director of communications for Redflex Traffic Systems, shares the number of captured violations across two school districts that Redflex has worked with: Lancaster, Ohio, and Bartow County, Georgia.
Since Lancaster launched Redflex’s Student Guardian program at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year as a way to increase child safety, it has equipped six school buses with the stop-arm camera technology and more than 70 drivers have been cited at $250 per violation. In Bartow County, the Student Guardian program has led to 547 tickets being issued, with drivers facing fines of up to $1,000.
Frank Bowden, sales manager for Fortress Mobile, explains that since North Carolina has seen a high number of stop-arm violations, it is implementing a very strong system. Not only is there a fine involved with illegally passing a bus, but a citation also brings added points against a license. With this, of course, comes stringent review of video footage to ensure that it is, in fact, a violation.
Bowden says, “Aside from a DUI or a DWI, a violation of a school bus brings the highest points on a driver’s license. Just like they say when you get your license, it’s a privilege, not a right.”