What can be done to stop drivers from passing stopped school buses and causing car-pedestrian accidents that endanger the lives of children?
In Chesterfield County, one approach that is being considered is the installation of high-tech cameras that can catch drivers making illegal passes and lead to citations being issued against them.
According to a report in the Times-Dispatch, the push to add the cameras to Chesterfield County public school buses comes on the heels of a 32-day study in which cameras placed on five buses caught a total of 216 passing violations, or an average of seven per day.
As the newspaper reports, the rate identified in the Chesterfield County study was more than eight times higher than the rate identified nationally in a 2013 single-day survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.
“I think a lot of people aren’t paying attention. I just think they don’t even think about it,” Dorothy A. Jaeckle, the Bermuda District Supervisor, told School Board officials at a meeting earlier this month, where the plan was discussed.
How School Buses Cameras Can Deter Illegal Passing
As the Times-Dispatch describes, the cameras would be activated automatically when the “stop” arm extends on the outside of the school bus. The vendor who provides the cameras would then review the video footage and forward information to Chesterfield law enforcement authorities.
Drivers caught illegally passing school buses could face $250 tickets, with $85 from each citation issued going to Chesterfield County Public Schools.
The hope is that the threat of getting hit with a hefty fine will deter drivers from passing stopped school buses and raise their overall awareness about their legal duty to stop.
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors would need to adopt an ordinance that gives the program a green light. As of the date of this article, that ordinance was still pending.
According to the Times-Dispatch, one issued being looked at concerning the proposed program is whether other school systems with similar bus camera programs have seen a reduction in drivers passing stopped school buses.
Another issue is whether the program runs the risk of “unintended consequences? For example, some studies show that red-light cameras have cut down on the number of T-bone accidents involving drivers who speed through intersections. However, by that same token, the cameras have increased rear-end accidents as drivers slam on their brakes to avoid running a light.
It is clear that the safety of children getting on and off school buses is a serious issue.
Indeed, a report several years ago by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that an average of 14 school-age children (age 19 and under) die each year in the U.S. as pedestrians in school bus-related crashes.
Chesterfield County Public Schools are at least taking a progressive step to address this issue.