VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A school district here has added exterior cameras to some of its school buses in an effort to prevent illegal passing and keep students safe as they load and unload.
The cameras that Virginia Beach City Public Schools installed on 100 of its buses capture images and videos of motorists illegally passing buses when stop arms are extended and red lights are flashing, according to a news release from the school district. The cameras are activated by sensors when a bus's stop arm is deployed, can detect a vehicle passing in any direction, and can capture license plates as well as the vehicle's GPS location.
Images will be reviewed by the Virginia Beach Police Department and may result in $250 citations for drivers who are found to be at fault.
This is the first phase of camera implementation, according to the district. Virginia Beach City Public Schools and the city’s police department will monitor the program and determine whether cameras need to be installed on more buses.
"If needed, other school buses will be outfitted with cameras," said David Pace, the district’s executive director of transportation. "However, our hope is that we don't need additional cameras, because motorists are stopping to keep students safe."
The camera installation was made possible through Virginia Beach City Public School's partnership with the City of Virginia Beach and the Virginia Beach Police Department.
"This is a national problem, and if we can do something to prevent a single tragedy, we will," said Dr. Aaron Spence, the superintendent for the district. "We hope that no citations are issued. We hope that motorists choose to always stop. It only takes a minute or so out of a driver's time for children to get on or off the bus safely."
State law says that drivers approaching a school bus may not pass if the bus's stop arm is extended or its red lights are flashing, according to the school district, and are required to wait until all students have finished boarding or exiting, and the school bus is back in motion. An exception to the rule is if a driver's vehicle is separated from a school bus by a solid barrier or median.
Illegal passing of school buses is a national concern. As School Bus Fleet previously reported, a National Stop Arm Violation Count survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS) in 2018 revealed that on a single day in 38 states, plus the District of Columbia, 83,944 vehicles illegally passed school buses. Throughout a 180-day school year, those results point to more than 15 million violations across the span of a school year, according to NASDPTS.