The Loudoun County School Board is planning to authorize the installation of cameras to catch drivers who put kids and other motorists in danger by illegally passing stopped school buses.
Commonly known as a “stop-arm camera,” the video recording device is placed on the stop sign that extends from the driver’s side of the bus when dropping off at each stop.
Under the program, if another vehicle passes a stopped school bus with its stop-arm extended, the camera will record the license plate along with the time, date and location of the incident. The vehicle’s owner will be subject of a fine up to $250.
The cameras will allow monitoring of what goes on outside the bus, adding to existing monitoring inside.
“We have cameras on the interior of the bus, but nothing on the outside,” Kevin L. Lewis, assistant superintendent of support services, said during the school board’s meeting on June 11.
School administrators met with the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office, as well as police departments in the towns of Leesburg, Purcellville, and Middleburg, to support an initial evaluation of the system.
The School Board is considering the stop-arm cameras as a deterrent to a growing problem nationally.
“There continue to be student fatalities in the school bus loading zone resulting from motorists illegally passing school buses at passenger stops,” the board’s resolution states. “Passing a stopped school bus is considered to be more dangerous than any other unsafe driving behavior,” the resolution continues, noting a study completed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that showed nearly 3,400 motorists illegally passed a stopped school bus on a single day. “While the number of actual crashes caused by this violation is low, the potential for injury or death is high,” notes a guide on best practices at nhtsa.gov.
During its next meeting June 25, the school board will vote on whether to authorize a feasibility study to determine the impact of system-wide installations. As part of the information-gathering phase, no tickets will be issued. “Only data will be collected, and no citations will be offered to violators passing buses loading or unloading students in the roadway,” the staff report noted.
Once the full system is in place, motorists who to illegally pass stopped school buses will have to pay, and the money will go back into the school system, after being collected and paid into the county treasury.
“The county treasurer shall remit to the school division all fine amounts received in respect to the violations of this section after crediting the county’s general fund with amount equal to the costs incurred by the police department in reviewing violations,” the ordinance states.
“I like that last line,” said School Board Chair Jeff Morse (Dulles).