Enforceability has emerged as the anthem for a wave of new laws to protect students from school bus stop arm violators. And the common threads in those laws are the use of camera images of license plates as evidence in court, and holding the vehicle owner responsible for the fines.
New laws across several states bear striking resemblances because lawmakers and supporters are comparing notes. People are getting on the same page.
New legislation in Washington state is influenced in large part by Nathan’s Law, passed in Mississippi after 5-year-old Nathan Key was killed by a stop arm runner in 2009. Nathan’s mother, Lori, is being consulted by citizen’s groups in other states who are looking at Nathan’s law as a boilerplate for similar legislation.
Key fought hard for comprehensive legislation that educated people and was enforceable. “I did not want any legislation bearing Nathan’s name that was unenforceable,” Key says. “Without the cameras and the reference to the vehicle’s owner, how do you enforce this law? It would have been a useless piece of legislation.”
The new laws include public awareness campaigns, safety curriculum in school, driver education and establish safety task forces. In the case of the Washington state law, there is even a requirement for a one-day count of illegal school bus passers, similar to surveys statewide championed by NASDPTS.
Some states avoid allowing camera companies from sharing in per ticket revenue. School districts are getting smarter also by consulting with their local police departments on the impact of video enforcement programs on department resources.
Key said legislation so far only allows stop arm cameras to be used. She said the next step is to require them.
Look for more in the upcoming August 2011 edition of School Transportation News magazine.