Blowing past a school bus with its stop sign extended may result in a $250 ticket, if the driver is caught by one of Arlington Public Schools’ newly-installed cameras.
Some APS buses are now equipped with cameras to help police officers catch drivers who do not stop when a bus extends its stop sign. APS operates 165 buses to transport about 10,000 kids a day, said Dave McCrae, APS director of Transportation.
“Essentially, the safety of our students is our primary focus,” McCrae said.
McCrae declined to say how many buses have the cameras, saying that revealing that information may encourage drivers to try their luck. Last year APS officials said that 10-20 percent of buses would get the cameras.
There are six total cameras on the buses: five in the front, one of which is a motion sensor camera, and one at the rear. Together the cameras work to capture the vehicle, including the license plate number, as it drives past a bus with its stop. Footage is then wirelessly sent to the Arlington Police Department, where the footage will be reviewed to determine if a violation has occurred, before a citation is issued.
“Cameras are a way of capturing video and providing law enforcement with evidence needed to prosecute a violation,” said Charlie Territo of American Traffic Solutions, which provides the cameras.
The new program is a result of a partnership between American Traffic Solutions, APS and the Arlington Police Department. The program is self-funded with the money collected from tickets paying for the cameras and upkeep.
Without the cameras, it is often difficult to catch drivers who run the bus’s stop sign, said Ken Dennis with Arlington Police Department. If a police officer follows a bus, drivers use their best driving behavior. It’s when they don’t think they can get caught that most drivers will break the law, he said.
Bus drivers told APS that drivers were often ignoring their extended bus stop signs, which led to the program’s implementation, McCrae said.
Driving past the signs is often not malicious, said Daniel Roseboro, a bus driver of 25 years. Instead, he has noticed that people are often just not paying attention or in a rush when they drive past a bus’s stop sign.
“I think the cameras will help, but I think one of the biggest things is the publicity,” he said. “It’s always good to know Big Brother is watching.”
McCrae said that he is hopeful that the cameras will prompt drivers to pay more attention when they see a school bus.
“If I had one goal of the program it would be no gets a ticket,” he said.
Cameras on school buses have proven to be effective, Territo said. American Traffic Solutions has provided equipment for buses in about 30 school districts across the country, he said. And drivers who get violations are often not repeat offenders.
Fully equipped buses rolled out yesterday. From now until the start of school (July 8-Sept. 7), drivers who pass a bus stop sign will receive a warning. Once school starts (Sept. 8), a violation will result in a $250 ticket.
The bus cameras work similar to red light cameras, Dennis said. Tickets are issued to the vehicle so violations will not result in points on a license.
“This is a good thing. This is to stop bad driving behavior,” Dennis said. “And sometimes the only way to do that is with a fine.”
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