Schools are back in session, and while many districts still vary between in-person classes, virtual learning, and hybrid approaches, it also means it’s time to refresh bus drivers on proper safety precautions and upgrade fleets with the latest tech to keep riders safe.
As stop-arm violations are on the rise, many suppliers are offering high-tech cameras that can be installed on the vehicle to document and deter infractions. School Bus Fleet reached out to several companies offering these products to find out how they work, how they help, and what you need to know to make informed decisions this school year.
The Need for Cameras
According to 2019 data from NASDPTS, every day in the U.S., 95,319 stop-arm violations occur — equating to over 17 million per school year.
Thanks to accessibility of education and recent legislation, the dangers of illegally passing stopped school buses are more recognized than in days past, making stop-arm cameras a requirement in schools’ bus technology needs.
One supplier, Verra Mobility, shares a stat that 99% of drivers who were issued and paid a violation from a CrossingGuard-equipped school bus did not receive a second, proving that these systems work.
“Cameras and sensors do not stop violations, but they can influence general awareness,” says Robert J. Scott, senior vice president of strategy for 247Security Inc. “One observation to be made when establishing such a program is that there is a lot of work to be done to bring all involved parties to the table. Bus operations, law enforcement, bylaw authorities, the courts, and politicians need to come together and decide if there is indeed a cost benefit. Improved safety, at the end of the day, should be the goal, and we think that educating through video is the best way to go.”
Behind the Tech
Advancements in technology continue to revolutionize student transportation, making it easier than ever to increase safety and reduce incidents — and many companies are bringing that new tech to school buses.
Doug Dyment, president and CEO of Gatekeeper Systems, reports that school districts no longer want to deal with manual input and are pushing to be able to wirelessly access video evidence of stop-arm infractions. While running from bus to bus to download incident reports is costly and time-consuming, he recommends cloud solutions that download video over a wireless network. Gatekeeper’s system allows the option to download incidents when buses return to the yard, prescheduled or activated by the driver alarm button.
“Stop-arm cameras have been the biggest ask these last few years as the technology has advanced and education on the issue of illegal passing of school buses has increased,” Greg Buckner, bid and proposal manager at Pro-Vision Video Systems, says. “The other area we’ve seen an increase of interest in light of the COVID-19 pandemic is wireless hotspot access on school buses.”
To meet this request, Pro-Vision has partnered with connectivity solutions provider Kajeet to provide connectivity and video recording for buses.
Jean Souliere, CEO and founder at BusPatrol, shares that BusPatrol uses machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) to improve accuracy and ensure easy delivery of evidence packages to law enforcement. He says that customers’ most asked-for requirements are 100% coverage, a turnkey solution, and full-fleet cloud-connectivity powering violator-funded programs.
Safe Fleet also mentions the trend in using AI combined with radar technology in systems today.
Jeff Nielsen, VP of product management at Verra Mobility, adds that school district customers are also looking for interior cameras and audio capabilities to prevent bullying, driver distraction, and protect overall safety, as well as student ridership and parent notification apps via RFID badging. He says there is a growing emphasis on data and analytics to gain data-driven insights for new use cases, such as route planning, fleet operations, and more.
A Look at Current Offerings
247’s stop-arm camera system is housed in an all-metal enclosure mounted on the left side of the bus. The device is coated in yellow to blend in, and captures the full view of violating vehicles. The system reads the license plate and sends a clip to a cloud server, which processes the data into a package, with GPS coordinates of the infraction location. The camera comes in 1080p HD resolution so you can see the smallest of details, and offers day or night recording, up to 75 mph in darkness with a 100 ft. distance.
BusPatrol’s safety platform for school buses is available at no cost through a unique violator-funded business model. Its solution allows student transportation officials to improve safety through automated enforcement technology. And through its “beyond enforcement” options and partnerships, helps school officials modernize their fleets with access to high-tech solutions.
BusPatrol cloud-connects every bus in a district’s fleet with IoT hardware and cloud-based software to help law enforcement address illegal passing. BusPatrol’s AI-powered Automated Violation Analysis (AVA) stop-arm cameras capture all stop-arm events in HD and is activated when the arm is deployed. An always-on internet connection relays footage and fleet management data that can be accessed securely by school officials and law enforcement.
First Light Safety Products
First Light’s Fully Illuminated Stop Arm (FISA) is designed to grab the attention of oncoming motorists before they are close to the school bus, especially when recognizing the stop arm is needed the most: in dark conditions, poorly lit roads, fog, rain, and snow. The entire surface of the octagon lights up with the word STOP in ultra bright white. The octagon of the FISA is its own light source and does not need a car’s headlights to be visible, eliminating the need for reflective decals or red LEDs.
Gatekeeper’s Student Protector Stop Arm Camera System captures stop arm violators in day or night. The system uses infrared technology to clearly capture license plate numbers in nearly any lighting or weather condition. The company’s video sensor technology detects passing vehicles when the stop arm is deployed and ensures license plate readability for a complete evidence package. In states where legislation allows, Gatekeeper’s optional Traffic Infraction Management System (TIMS) software helps to automate the evidence review and citation process for infractions.
Pro-Vision Video Systems
The Pro-Vision HD Dual-Lens Stop-Arm Camera features dual-lens technology in a single camera that automatically detects and captures 1080p HD footage of license plates and of the violating driver.
The system works both as a standalone system or integrated with a Pro-Vision Hybrid DVR System, automatically marking any violation footage as event video, separating it from constant video. This helps users easily find and review footage of stop-arm violators to provide details when reporting incidents and protecting students.
REI’s stop-arm solutions deliver clear HD video of license plate captures, overview shots of violations in progress, GPS information indicating the violations’ locations, and active inputs such as extended stop arms and red flashing lights. Violations are flagged and time/date stamped for quick playback, or may be downloaded automatically using REI’s Armor Software Suite. This capture of license plate images, day or night, helps mitigate the safety concerns of students, parents, drivers, and administrators, the company says.
The Safe Fleet Predictive Stop Arm is a patented solution that uses radar technology and predictive analytics to monitor oncoming vehicle traffic, measuring vehicle speed and distance from a school bus. Analytics algorithms process data from radar sensors and determine whether a vehicle is likely to have sufficient time to slow down and stop or whether a stop arm violation is probable. If the system perceives that student should not cross, students will hear “Danger, get back,” emitted from speakers mounted outside the bus and the bus operator will receive a visual alert inside the bus.
The Safety Vision Stop Arm Solution was recently redesigned to provide real-time alerts for awareness of violations moments after they occur, while also cataloging events to understand the extent and nature of these occurrences more easily. Users can determine areas and degree of risk and with custom reports by bus, region, or fleet for a selectable date or date range for in-depth analyses. Access to this data and awareness of violation trends can help school transportation staff take the necessary actions to further enhance current safety measures.
Verra Mobility’s CrossingGuard is a violator-funded, end-to-end school bus stop arm safety camera solution that helps safeguard children as they travel to and from school. CrossingGuard provides a proven method that discourages drivers from endangering the lives of children while empowering bus drivers to keep themselves and their passengers safe. As a trusted global partner for safe transportation, Verra Mobility provides leading school bus safety technology and effective public awareness efforts supported by unmatched technical and industry expertise from an organization with more than 25 years of serving communities at their highest need.