RALEIGH, N.C. — A new law in North Carolina provides another path for stop-arm violation enforcement based on camera footage.
Gov. Roy Cooper signed the legislation, Senate Bill 55, into law on Tuesday.
“Speeding past a stopped school bus puts children’s lives at risk, sometimes with tragic results,” Cooper said in a press release. “With this new law in place, we have another tool to help children who ride the school bus travel safely.”
Until now, stop-arm camera footage in North Carolina could only be used for criminal proceedings when the driver of a passing vehicle can be identified. The new law allows for civil penalties to be assessed to the owner of the vehicle if the driver can’t be identified in camera footage but the license plate can.
Counties in the state can now pass local ordinances that authorize the cameras to be used for civil enforcement of stop-arm violations. The new law sets the civil penalties at $400 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense, and $1,000 for any subsequent offense.
Kevin Harrison, North Carolina’s state director of pupil transportation, told SBF that the new law provides an additional avenue for citing stop-arm runners, which could help deter those who do it intentionally.
“I think it will result in being able to use more of this footage for enforcement,” Harrison said. “It’s one more way to say, ‘If you’ve got [footage] and it’s a violation, we can do something with it.' … Putting that video and images in front of law enforcement, that’s the critical piece.”
Annual school bus stop-arm surveys in North Carolina have consistently counted more than 3,000 violations per day. In some cases, students have been injured or killed by passing motorists.
Cooper began pushing for school bus stop-arm cameras in 2014, when he was North Carolina’s attorney general.
“This is a proven way to deter motorists from passing stopped school buses without cost to the taxpayers,” Cooper said in November 2014. “It will definitely make our kids safer when they ride the bus to school.”
Harrison told SBF that there are currently about 1,900 stop-arm camera systems installed on school buses in North Carolina.
In addition to cameras, the state has taken other steps to bolster student safety at school bus stops, including public awareness efforts and a required school bus driver hand signal to let students know when it is safe to cross the street in front of the bus.
Also, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is conducting a pilot project in which more than 300 extended stop arms are being tested on school buses in the state.
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