Educating the public
Stop-arm cameras can help catch bus-passing violations and serve as a deterrent to prevent them. Image courtesy 247Security
According to a 2014 study by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, 29 states found that nearly 76,000 vehicles illegally passed 97,000 school buses in one day.
Despite the presence of flashing lights, stop arms and now stop-arm cameras, vehicles continue to pass school buses and break the law. Perhaps it is because they feel they won’t be caught, or perhaps it is just because they are not aware of the potential violation. Regardless, stop-arm camera suppliers are developing systems to help address the problem.
According to Rob Scott, the vice president of sales and marketing at 247Security, the most logical and straightforward solution is a system that reduces the frequency of violations, and this comes directly from educating the public. Since school districts have installed and begun using stop-arm cameras, the manufacturers and districts have worked together to notify the public about the increased enforcement surrounding stop-arm violations. Almost all the programs would not be successful without the assistance of local law enforcement.
Lori Jetha, the marketing and communications manager for Seon, explains how Tom Oestreich, transportation director at Bloomington (Minn.) Public Schools, partnered with local law enforcement to raise awareness for his stop-arm program by setting up a sting operation to catch stop-arm violators in action. The sting involved police officers stationed at key bus stops prepared to pull over drivers as soon as they passed a deployed bus stop arm. Local media coverage helped spread the word about his newly installed Seon stop-arm cameras. Because this was an initial step in notifying the public, no tickets were issued, but rather this served as an education platform.
American Traffic Solutions, which offers full service public relations for community awareness of stop-arm cameras, helped launch the “Watch You Like a Hawk,” program in Cobb County, Georgia. The program not only educates students about school bus safety with the help of a hawk mascot, but it was named after the police officer who spearheaded the project: Lt. Hawk.
Is it working?
Stop-arm violation programs aren’t just about reacting to a problem, but more about preventing it. Territo says that another indicator of a successful program is reducing the percentage of drivers who receive a second violation after their initial one, and having fewer violations from the beginning of the year to the end. He says that 99% of the drivers whom American Traffic Solutions has ticketed have not received a second, and there was a 15% decrease in captured violations from the start to the end of the 2013-14 school year.
Though it could be a viable source of income, revenue is not the ultimate goal of these programs, but rather, the safety of students.
Scott explains, “When you think about it, these programs, if successful, should ultimately fail financially. That does not mean these programs are not good for the industry — simply that they may be short term business plans. But with an average of one violation per day per bus across the country, there is a lot of work to do. It is a problem worthy of our attention and investment.”
And while there is still work to be done to eliminate stop-arm violations, these programs serve as an efficient way to gain reductions.
Thomas O’Connor, president of Redflex Student Guardian, says, “Communities across the country are utilizing stop-arm technology as a cost-effective and efficient way to increase safety for their students. Not only are children safer, but the camera systems enable local law enforcement to refocus their energies on other high-priority tasks while still ensuring school bus routes are monitored.”
For more information on stop-arm camera systems, see these companies' websites:
• American Traffic Solutions
• Fortress Mobile
• Redflex Traffic Systems
• Radio Engineering Industries
• Safety Vision