School bus cameras to catch impatient drivers proposed

A silver car ignored the flashing red lights on a school bus and the protruding arm with a stop sign on the end.

The driver broke the law and drove around it.

Statistics show that in America it happens to every school bus, every day.

But the silver car got caught by three cameras mounted on the school bus. The video – with the car’s license plate – was wirelessly transmitted and displayed in mere moments.

Fortunately, for the driver of the silver car, it was merely a demonstration Thursday morning in the parking lot of York College. There will be no ticket, but if Representative Seth Grove (R-York) has his way, there soon will be. His House Bill 1580 would allow, but not force, school districts to employ school bus cameras.

“I think many school districts would look forward to this type of technology to protect their students coming to and from school,” Grove said at a House Transportation Subcommittee hearing at the college.

House Bill 1580 would allow schools to mount the cameras, which automatically activate when the red lights flash. Motion sensors catch drivers who don’t obey Pennsylvania law, which requires drivers to stop 10 feet in front or behind a bus that’s flashing its red lights.

The video of violators is sent to local police, who would have discretion on whether to write a $250 ticket to the vehicle’s owner.

School bus drivers are supportive.

“We have motorists passing our buses every day,” said Blake Krapf of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association.

Under current law, it’s incumbent upon the school bus driver to write down the license plate number, make and model of the car and a description of the driver when illegally passed – all while keeping an eye on the 50, 60 or 70 kids on the bus.

Krapf testified that it’s nearly impossible and cameras would be a big help. He said that getting on and off a school bus is the riskiest part of the journey for students.

If camera-only evidence is presented, it would be a civil violation sent to the car’s owner. There would be no points and the fine would be $250 because a car owner could argue they weren’t driving. But if the bus driver can identify the violator behind the wheel, the penalties would be stiffer, including points and a 60-day license suspension.

Many midstaters responded on Facebook and most approve.

Traci Snyder said, “They carry our most precious cargo and people drive around them like lunatics and don’t pay attention. Great idea!”

“Absolutely!,” said Mikie Minto. “I have witnessed so many cars disregarding the big red stop signs and flashing lights at my son’s bus stop. They fly past, tires squealing and all.”

Peggy Owen Flickenger adds, “Yes. As a former bus driver, there were hundreds of times cars would whiz past so fast I could not get the license number and type of vehicle.”

But Andy Welcomer wasn’t so welcoming to House Bill 1580.

“A camera filming a motorist will not do anything to increase safety, it will only be a money grab,” he said.

As for money, Grove says it won’t cost school districts or municipalities any. He says vendors would install and maintain the cameras on the buses and be reimbursed from the fine money.

The bill has been introduced but still has a legislative journey ahead. Grove hopes it will move out of the House in the fall.

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