KENDALLVILLE, Ind. — A school district here has been awarded a $50,000 grant to equip its entire school bus fleet with stop-arm cameras.
The Secured School Safety Grant, from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security, will provide windshield and exterior stop-arm cameras for all of the 55 school buses in East Noble School Corp.’s fleet.
The district is believed to be the first in the state to be awarded such a grant for stop-arm cameras, said John Legus, the transportation director for East Noble School Corp.
The school system’s transportation department started researching the use of stop-arm cameras on school buses in November 2015.
“We gathered our drivers, technicians and office staff, and met with county prosecutors, sheriffs, and city and state police to talk with them about the problem [of illegal school bus passing],” Legus said.
In March, the district’s transportation department launched a pilot of the camera system, supplied by 247Security, on one of its new school buses. A windshield camera was used to detect potential stop-arm violations, and three cameras were placed under the stop arm. Two of those cameras faced backward to capture images of license plate numbers from up to five lanes of traffic moving in the opposite direction. The forward-facing camera captured license plate numbers of vehicles driving in the same direction as the bus. Since the launch, the district has caught 16 violators with the stop-arm cameras on that bus, Legus added.
The transportation department uses video from the camera as a supplement to a written report that it sends to law enforcement. If an incident is determined to be illegal passing, officers will issue a citation, which carries a fine of $400 in Noble County.
The challenge in the state has been that fines for the violation vary widely across the state — up to $10,000 in some counties — and the law against illegal passing of school buses is not enforced in some counties, Legus said.
Schools in some counties have not been able to get assistance from law enforcement or county prosecutors, whether or not their school buses are equipped with stop-arm cameras. However, that has not been the case for East Noble School Corp.
“We are very fortunate to have support from our county prosecutor and law enforcement,” Legus said.
Meanwhile, proposed state bills have been submitted in an effort to make illegal passing enforcement uniform across the state. One such bill, SB 326, would let school bus drivers, monitors, and crossing guards provide a statement after witnessing a motorist illegally passing a school bus, and would also allow law enforcement to give a citation to motorists who run a school bus stop arm if a signed affidavit has been completed.
Legus said that the school district has received the grant before, but not for the purpose of stop-arm cameras. This year, when it came time to apply, the transportation department notified the district about the problem it has had — along with many other school transportation providers across the U.S. — with stop-arm running, and put all its effort into research, and included videos of illegal passing incidents in its application.
The transportation department hopes that its efforts can help school districts statewide to keep kids safe, Legus said.
“We believe we are going to provide an example for other districts, other counties, other leaders, and show them that this is a process we can follow, and prosecute those who are illegally passing our buses. We are very proud of this. I am thankful to everyone involved for making our stop-arm camera system launch a success.”
The East Noble School Corp. transportation department expects the grant funds to arrive by September, and it will then start installing stop-arm cameras on all of its school buses. The department plans to have the cameras on every bus over the course of the upcoming school year.