ATLANTA — Fulton County is launching a stop-arm camera program aimed at cracking down on illegal passing of school buses.
County commissioners recently voted to enter into an inter-governmental agreement with Fulton County Schools for the safety initiative. The partnership also involves the Fulton County Police Department, which will implement a school bus camera enforcement program in unincorporated south Fulton County.
Police will administer traffic enforcement and violation assessment to motorists caught on camera passing Fulton County Schools buses with extended stop arms. The county government will provide resources to prosecute those violators.
In a statewide survey conducted last year with 12,063 school buses, 8,790 illegal passes were counted in one day.
"It's scary to hear how many people go around stopped school buses," County Commission Chairman John Eaves said. "Our children really are at risk. Anything we can do to keep them safe, I'm all for."
The plan calls for a qualified officer or other qualified staff member to review the recorded images of violations within three days. The county government will send monthly progress reports to the school district detailing the number of violations.
"This traffic violation is one of the most serious of all violations; it has the potential of injuring our children,” Fulton County Police Chief Gary Stiles said. “Preserving life is the cornerstone of our mission; ensuring the safety of children, the future of our communities, is paramount.”
Stiles added that he will launch an educational ad campaign in the near future.
In Georgia, stop-arm violators face a $300 fine for a first violation, a $750 fine for a second, and a $1,000 fine for a third violation in a five-year period.
Fulton County Schools deployed American Traffic Solutions’ CrossingGuard stop-arm cameras on district buses. The cameras were activated on Feb. 8, with a 30-day warning period for motorists. Fines were slated to go into effect on March 7.
Fulton County Schools, the fourth-largest district in the state, operates a total of 760 school buses and has more than 79,000 eligible riders.
“Our bus drivers deal with the frustration of motorists ignoring their school bus stop arm every day,” said R. Sam Ham, executive director of the school system’s transportation department. “We believe this new technology will ease their mind, protect the children that they are devoted to, and create a greater awareness in the community about safe and legal driving practices.”