Senate committee approves school bus cameras bill

Posted April 21, 2015

Two school buses in each of North Carolina's 115 school districts will have cameras mounted on the outside to catch stop-arm violators, under a pilot program this year.

— North Carolina school districts could expand their use of automatic cameras to catch drivers who weave around stopped school buses under a bill that cleared the Senate Judiciary II Committee.

It is illegal for drivers to pass a school bus when the stop-arm is extended, and a pilot program is already using cameras to bring criminal violations against some drivers. If Senate Bill 298 passes, counties would be able to pass local ordinances the levy civil fines of $500 on violators caught by stop-arm cameras. It would also give local governments and school boards the ability to enter into contracts to purchase and operate more cameras.

"On March 18 of this school year, we asked school bus drivers to count how many times a vehicle passed a stopped school bus. It was 3,000 vehicles on that one day," said Derek Graham, the transportation section chief for the Department of Public Instruction.

Those numbers, Graham said, jibed with counts from previous years. "Most of those violations were going undetected."

The cameras not only capture an image of the car doing the violation and the car's license plate, they also help reviewers identify the drivers, he said.

Graham told the committee that more cameras could result in "more consequences, more chatter in the community, and that could lead to changed behavior."

Bruce Mildwurf, a lobbyist for the North Carolina School Boards Association, said his group supports the bill as well.

The committee spent the bulk of its time working out a technical issue with regard to how fines would be appealed. The measure is expected to be on the Senate floor Wednesday.


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