Bellevue (Neb.) Public Schools will equip 10 of its 78 school buses with stop-arm cameras from Radio Engineering Industries (REI) in an effort to deter motorists from illegally passing stopped school buses.
The camera systems, manufactured and installed by REI, are designed specifically for school buses and have numerous parameters built into them to ensure every violation is valid and fully documented.
The eight cameras that will be placed on each of the 10 outfitted buses are able to capture images from three different angles, both the front and rear license plate and, in many cases, the driver of the vehicle.
As the outfitted buses return to the district’s transportation center after each route, violations are automatically downloaded to the transportation director’s computer. After violations are reviewed and confirmed by the director, a designated police officer reviews the video. If both parties are in agreement that the violation is legitimate, a citation may then be issued by the police officer to the operator of the vehicle. In Nebraska, the current penalty for a stop-arm violation is a fine of $500 and three points assigned against the violator’s license, district officials said.
The automated camera systems enable the bus driver to focus on student safety instead of trying to capture the license plate numbers of stop-arm runners.
During the last school year, bus drivers for Bellevue Public Schools documented 163 cases of motorists ignoring the flashing red lights and stop arm while students were either loading or unloading, according to the district. This number represents just a fraction of the actual violations, because many times the driver is focused on monitoring the loading and unloading and is unable to capture the required information to make the report.
When a bus driver was able to capture the required information to make a report on a stop-arm violation, it was forwarded to the Bellevue Police Department, who would investigate the violation and, if appropriate, address it with the violator. Unfortunately, because the violation wasn’t observed by the police officer, a citation wasn’t issued.
During monthly safety meetings, drivers sometimes share recent violations that they witnessed.
“If it wasn’t so serious, it would almost be comical how different motorists handle a bus stopped with its stop arm deployed,” said Rich Casey, the transportation director for Bellevue Public Schools. “Sometimes drivers assume they only have to stop momentarily and then they can proceed through the stop arm. Other times, drivers drive slowly and look at the bus driver as if to say, ‘Is this what I am supposed to do?’”