Cameras target drivers who pass stopped school buses

Posted at 9:46 AM, Feb 06, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-06 13:38:53-05

PRINCE GEORGE COUNTY, Va. (WTVR) - Some parents in Central Virginia are taking a sigh of relief at area school bus stops.  A new technology aimed at catching drivers who illegally pass stopped buses letting kids on or off have been installed on several buses in the area.

At least four school districts have installed cameras on the outside of several buses that capture images of vehicles that zoom past.  The automated system sends the pictures to a company in Arizona, who then forwards the image to local police.

Police must then decide whether or not to cite the driver.

Prince George County, Chesterfield County, Petersburg, and Hopewell Schools have all installed the cameras on some buses and are in various stages of testing periods on the technology.

"A lot of times I go home cursing and livid," said Christina McClung, who drops her kids off at their Prince George County bus stop each day.  "I think it's going to make people think and say maybe I should think about it before I do it."

Prince George County schools said they has already gotten approval from the Board of Supervisors to implement the system full-time.  The school district's transportation department said police will begin ticketing violators by the end of this month.

The fine is $250.

"Can't believe it; a bus has all the lights, bells and whistles flashing and people fly right on by," said Ron Rhodes, Co-Director of the Prince George County Schools' Transportation Department.  "Hopefully, we'll get the word out that you can't do this."

A spokesperson with Chesterfield County Schools said they are in the preliminary stages of a pilot program with the cameras that began about a week ago.  They have installed them on five of the county's nearly 500 buses; however, those five bus routes are in different areas of the county.  No tickets are being generated at this time.

Petersburg Schools installed cameras on two buses in December 2013, according to their spokeswoman.  The district is collecting data at this time, and violators are not yet being cited.

Hopewell Schools finished their testing phase in the fall of last year, and determined the cameras helped keep their students safer.  Drivers are not being ticketed currently, but the schools district is working with city leaders and the police on the details of implementing the system.

The camera system is made by the company "Redflex;" the same company that installs a type of "red light" camera used at stop lights around Richmond.

The "Student Guardian" cameras are being tested in 15 schools districts in Virginia, according to the Hopewell News.

All four school districts contacted by CBS 6 said that they are testing the system to see how it can improve bus stop safety for their students.