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Exterior School Bus Cameras Crack Down on Passing Motorists

School districts add external cameras to increase student safety.
Video cameras, located on the school-bus stop sign arms, capture the license plate numbers of vehicles that fail to stop and pass buses loading or unloading children.

To keep children safe and prevent school bus accidents, school districts across the nation are cracking down on drivers who pass school buses when children are getting on or off.

The Sand Springs (Okla.) School District just added multiple cameras to its fleet of buses, including on the exterior school-bus stop sign arm. “Cars cannot see students loading and unloading from the bus, and students cannot see an oncoming car. There is no way the driver could stop before hitting the child,” according to Sean Parker, assistant director of transportation for the district.

In New Canaan and New Britain, Conn., 93 cars passed a bus loading or unloading children in 83 school days in the 2010-2011 school year, according to SmartBus Live, a vendor that provides and monitors bus cameras.

Three districts near Boston, including Medford, Quincy and Seekonk, are running a bus-camera pilot program as they wait for the Massachusetts State Senate to approve a new law that would give police authority to review video obtained from onboard cameras of drivers illegally passing school buses and to mail citations directly to violators. Under current state law, offenders cannot be issued citations based on video evidence only. Legislation would allow for cities, counties or schools to get video camera equipment at no cost and pay for the program through violator fines. Fines vary by state but start at $250 in Massachusetts.

If the Nicholas Atkins Bus Safety Act, named in honor of a child killed by a driver passing a bus in North Carolina, becomes law in Sand Springs, Okla., fines would increase to $4,000 and may include jail time.

Any bus outfitted with a video camera has signs on the rear to deter motorists from illegally passing school buses.