State Rep. Seth Grove introduced the legislation, House Bill 1580. Earlier this year as he was preparing to introduce the bill, he called upon other members of the House of Representatives to join him in sponsoring it.
“Data collected for the past four years shows an increase in Title 75 Section 3345 (a) [stop-arm] violation occurrences, which constitutes a $250 fine, a 60-day driver’s license suspension and five points,” Grove said. “Currently, school bus drivers are charged with providing information related to these violations, but despite the collection of details required to pursue a violation, more often than not, the charges are changed in some way — i.e., downgraded. Utilizing safe and proven technology, automated enforcement of these violations can provide increased accountability of drivers and remove the burden from school bus drivers to bear witness to all facets of the violations when their primary goal is to ensure the safe transportation of the children in their charge.”
House Bill 1580 would amend current law to allow school districts to outfit their buses with the cameras for monitoring and capturing motorists who overtake any school bus that is stopped on a highway or roadway with its red lights flashing and stop arm extended for students to board or disembark.
Recorded images collected as part of the automated stop-arm camera system could only record traffic violations — they could not be used for any other surveillance purposes.
If a school district or bus company that contracts with a school district plans to equip its buses with the cameras, it must cooperate with the primary police department with authority to issue violations to inform officials of the plan. Then the police department can make appropriate staff changes to fulfill its duties to enforce the violations.
The district or bus company must also conduct statistical analysis to assess the safety impact of the system. There are requirements for the analysis, including: it must be based on the best available crash, traffic and other data; it must include the number of citations issued in the school district before and after the installation of the camera system; and it must be conducted no later than 12 months after the installation of the system.
Grove told the York Dispatch that in order to comply with the state’s wiretapping laws, signs warning about the cameras would have to be posted at boundaries of each municipality in which buses are equipped with the cameras.
Grove recently visited Pennsylvania school bus contractor Red Lion Bus Inc. to see firsthand how the cameras could help drivers keep riders safe.
The bill is currently in the House transportation committee.
Other news on school bus-related legislation in Pennsylvania: