Arlington (Va.) Public Schools recently rolled out its school bus stop-arm safety camera program with American Traffic Solutions’ CrossingGuard cameras, which capture images of vehicles that fail to stop for an extended school bus stop arm.

The effort makes Arlington County one of the first communities in Virginia to approve the use of exterior school bus cameras, according to American Traffic Solutions.

“Our main goal is to keep our students safe,” said Dave McCrae, director of transportation for Arlington Public Schools. “These cameras are the safety solution we need to protect our students and to reduce the number of these types of violations.”

During the first two months of the program (July 8-Sept. 7), a warning notice will be issued to the vehicle’s owner. The warning period is scheduled during summer school, and live notices will start being issued on Sept. 8 when the school year begins.

“The warning period will give our residents an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the public safety goals of the program before the actual citations begin,” said Kevin Reardon, the district’s security coordinator. “The goal of this public safety program is to stop drivers from disobeying the stop arm, ensuring our students get to and from school safely.”

According to the latest survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS), 1,828 vehicles illegally passed stopped school buses in Virginia in a single day in 2014. Over a typical 180-day school year, this one-day count could result in nearly 330,000 vehicles illegally passing school buses that are stopped to let children on or off the bus.

The CrossingGuard school bus arm safety solution mounts cameras and sensors on the side of the school bus. When the stop arm is deployed, the sensors are designed to automatically detect a vehicle illegally passing the stop arm in either direction and capture video of the violation, including the vehicle’s license plate. The video is then reviewed by the Arlington County Police Department for approval prior to a citation being issued.

In Virginia, the penalty for a stop-arm violation will warrant the vehicle’s owner a civil penalty of $250.

Arlington Public Schools operates 165 buses that transport about 10,000 students to and from school each week.

"Our goal is to educate drivers and stop the illegal passing of school buses," said M. Jay Farr, chief of police for Arlington County. "Our number-one priority is to protect our citizens. We are proud to have this additional tool to help keep our children safe.”

An FAQ about the program and Virginia traffic laws pertaining to school bus stop arms is available on the school district’s website at www.apsva.us/stoparmcameras.

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