Although the school year is nearly over, the importance of motorists following traffic laws when approaching school buses is still important.
With the installation of swing-arm cameras on their buses, the East Lycoming School District is taking the enforcement of those laws to ensure the safety of their students very seriously.
The district announced this week that on May 11 they will be launching a new School Bus Safety Program in partnership with local law enforcement and the district’s bus drivers.
“For this program, all school buses that transport ELSD students are now outfitted with safety technology to make the ride to and from school safer for all,” Dr. Mark Stamm, district superintendent, stated in a letter to parents.
“The technology includes bus-mounted enforcement cameras that detect vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses while the stop sign arm and red lights are engaged,” the letter explained.
The district has contracted with Bus Patrol to supply the cameras for district buses. There is no cost to the district for the cameras.
Bus Patrol’s technology doesn’t identify the driver of the vehicle but rather the owner of the vehicle that has just illegally passed a stopped school bus, Officer Drew Boyer, a member of the Hughesville Borough Police force, explained.
“The camera captures the image of the ownership of the car, so the civil citation that they issue only goes to the owner of the car,” Boyer said.
The vehicle owner will receive the citation by mail. They will also be able to view online the footage taken by the camera of their vehicle.
“It’s a civil citation,” Stamm said. “That’s not criminal.”
“It works just like the speed enforcement car that is in the work zone. That exact same way. That’s a civil citation. So the fine is $300. The idea is that through a kind of an awareness campaign, it will make kids getting off the bus safer for everyone,” he added.
The district began working with Bus Patrol last fall to get the cameras. East Lycoming is the first district in the county to utilize this technology.
Initially, it was the district’s school bus drivers who brought the program to the administration’s attention.
“They felt they had a lot of incidents of people running their stopped lights, and knowing that it is very hard for us to do anything about it, because they couldn’t get all the pieces of information while doing all their bus driving responsibilities,” Stamm said.
“So this was kind of an automated way to put some enforcement behind it,” he added.
Boyer agreed that it is a valuable tool.
“I believe that these incidents happen more than are reported, and just for lack of evidence,” Boyer said. “The bus drivers have a hard time getting a description of the car, getting a driver description, and then also getting a registration plate to try and determine who that person is. I’m hopeful that these cameras will be able to catch that and we can have enough evidence to prosecute.”
Boyer explained how the procedure works.
“If the camera is activated, the initial video information goes to the company, Bus Patrol. Bus Patrol, then in turn sends it to the local municipality or the police department in charge of that area. We then approve whether or not we feel it’s a violation. Once we approve it, then it goes back to Bus Patrol and they issue the civil citation,” Boyer said.
Because it is a civil citation, drivers receive no points against their driver’s license and insurance companies can’t raise car insurance rates on the car owner who has been cited.
“There’s no investment on our part. There’s no cost upfront to us. There’s no cost liability to us. So even if they install all of the equipment, and they only get five citations, we’re not obligated to pay for the equipment,” Stamm said.
With almost a half million school buses on the road in the United States this year, the need for motorists to follow the laws is integral to assuring that students can safely exit school buses.
“I hope that the implementation of it is going to do what we want it to do, which is to stop the violations from happening,” Boyer said.
Based in New York, Stephen Freeman is a Senior Editor at Trending Insurance News. Previously he has worked for Forbes and The Huffington Post. Steven is a graduate of Risk Management at the University of New York.