First it was traffic lights and stop signs--now cities are outfitting school buses with cameras to catch drivers ignoring the rules of the road.
Getting caught behind a school bus is another ring of hell for many drivers. And the later you are to that morning meeting, the more likely it seems you will end up behind one that stops every hundred yards or so to pick up another gaggle of kids. Driving around the stopped school bus would be against the law, but that doesn't stop many drivers from doing it, putting the lives of children at risk. Now, some communities are fighting back by installing traffic cameras on the bus to catch violators in the act.
Mounted near the stop-sign arm that extends when a bus stops to pick up or drop off children, cameras watch traffic approaching from both directions. The cameras automatically photograph drivers that ignore the stop sign, and the evidence is sent to the local police department to issue tickets to the owner of the vehicle.
RedFlex and American Traffic Solutions offer similar automated traffic enforcement solutions, and they currently have service contracts in Connecticut, Washington, and North Carolina to use the camera technology on school buses.
However, automated traffic monitoring expansion is sure to rile motorists who decry the use of cameras that catch them breaking the law. Privacy advocates argue that these systems don't improve safety or reduce accidents, and are only revenue generating schemes.
Citizens voted to ban traffic cameras on state and federal highways in New Mexico, and Arizona, under pressure from constituents decided not to renew the speed enforcement cameras it used on highways. But embittered motorists may not have as many sympathizers when it comes to protesting school bus safety.
On a single school day in Maryland, which is considering using school bus arm cameras, school bus drivers reported more than 7,000 incidents of drivers running the stop sign. Although the dangers presented by motorists who run stop signs is great, thankfully there are relatively few fatalities. The National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey conducted by the Kansas State Department of Education found that 13 children were killed in 2009 during school bus loading or unloading. Ironically, more youngsters were killed by the school bus itself than by vehicles passing a stopped school bus. Five children were killed by vehicles passing the school bus, while eight were killed when they either fell under or were hit by the bus.