TRENTON, N.J. — Last week, state lawmakers introduced A-3798, legislation that would authorize school districts to deploy school bus stop-arm cameras to capture video of drivers who illegally pass stopped buses.
The legislation, introduced by Assembly members Troy Singleton, Gregory McGuckin, and David Wolfe, requires the video to be reviewed and processed by law enforcement, who will determine if a citation should be issued to the driver.
“This legislation is a common-sense measure that gives school districts, municipalities and the law enforcement community an extra tool to combat dangerous driving behavior,” said Dr. Lawrence S. Feinsod, executive director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. “As school bus drivers may not always be able to accurately identify the vehicle in question, [stop] arm safety cameras will provide drivers, police officers, and judges with nearly indisputable evidence that will hold violators accountable. We commend the sponsors for taking the lead on this initiative and prioritizing the safety of our students.”
According to a national survey conducted last year by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, 78,518 drivers unlawfully passed stopped school buses as children were loading or unloading from the bus in a single day. In the 2014-15 school year, three students were killed by vehicles passing their school bus, according to the Kansas State Department of Education’s School Bus Safety Unit, which collects national loading and unloading fatality statistics.
In New Jersey, 23,000 buses take thousands of children to and from school every day, according to a news release from the Traffic Safety Coalition, a national nonprofit traffic safety advocacy organization, that is funded by the traffic camera industry. From 2012 to 2014, there were 4,900 citations issued by law enforcement to drivers who illegally passed school buses, according to the New Jersey Administrative Offices of the Courts. However, the actual number of violations could be higher because those citations were only issued if a school bus driver, police officer, or parent recorded the license plate number of the violator to provide to the local police.
“I am well aware of the precious cargo I carry to and from school every day. It is a job that I both enjoy and take very seriously,” said Joanne Ciccotelli, a school bus driver in Dennis Township. “I support A-3798 to place cameras on school buses to catch drivers who illegally pass school buses. It will help bus drivers who are rarely in a position to take down an offender’s license plate number while driving and managing the students on the bus. Above all, it will keep kids safer.”
Similar legislation, S-211 (formerly S-503), was introduced in January 2016 by Senators James Holzapfel and Jim Whelan.