The attorney general of North Carolina wants to equip all public school buses in the state with cameras to catch stop-arm violators, and his goal is gaining support.
On Nov. 17, a subcommittee of the Child Fatality Task Force, which includes state legislators and child safety experts from across North Carolina, voted unanimously to support Attorney General Roy Cooper’s stop-arm camera plan.
“This is a proven way to deter motorists from passing stopped school buses without cost to the taxpayers,” Cooper said. “It will definitely make our kids safer when they ride the bus to school.”
Already this school year, there have been several car accidents involving students at their bus stops in North Carolina. At least three students have been injured in these incidents, and one student was killed.
A one-day survey earlier this year counted 3,153 stop-arm violations in North Carolina.
Under Cooper’s plan, photographs of offenders’ license plates captured by the cameras would be used to automatically issue civil citations to registered vehicle owners. Monetary penalties paid by violators would go to public schools in accordance with the state’s constitution.
Implementing the program in North Carolina would require state legislation to give local school boards the necessary authority. Currently, civil penalties are not permitted, and the offending motorist must be positively identified to be charged with a passing offense.
Cooper bolstered his case by citing success that other states have had with stop-arm cameras. As an example, he said that a large, urban county in Georgia issued 1,302 citations in its first month with stop-arm cameras, but by the sixth month, citations dropped to 375 per month — a 71% decrease.
The North Carolina School Boards Association has also added its support to Cooper’s initiative.
“Local school boards share your desire to enhance student safety and firmly believe additional methods are needed to discourage and crack down on drivers illegally passing stopped school buses,” Leanne Winner, the association’s director of governmental relations, wrote in a letter to Cooper. “Empowering school boards with the authority to enter into locally tailored contracts with stop-arm camera providers will further this vital safety objective in a fiscally sound manner.”
Along with the push for stop-arm cameras and other safety efforts, the illegal school bus passing problem has prompted North Carolina news outlet WNCN to launch a public service campaign called #Brake4Buses.