The National Conference on State Legislatures released a brief that recaps many of the 13 current state laws that authorize the use of video cameras on school buses to identify motorists who illegally pass while students are present.
The latest state to implement a law is South Carolina, where Gov. Nikki Haley signed SB 718 in June. Douglas Shinkle, program principal for NCLS, reported that the law allows a school bus to be equipped with a recording device that can capture a clear view of vehicles passing, the date and time of the infraction and an electronic symbol indicating activation of the amber lights, flashing red lights, stop arms and brakes.
Last March, Wyoming became the first state to actually require the school bus video cameras on or near the stop arm. Shinkle wrote that district costs associated with installing the cameras may be reimbursed by the state similar to other district-covered transportation costs.
Conversely, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee debated but did not pass bills last year.
Illinois passed its law in 2013. In doing so, the state expanded its definition of “automated traffic law enforcement” to include school bus cameras that capture illegal passers. Fines may not exceed $150 for a first violation and $500 for all subsequent violations.
North Carolina first started targeting illegal passers in 1991 with a law that created the Child Fatality Task Force. In 2013 a new state law created minimum fines for illegal passing, revocation of the driver’s license for a second offense within three years and stricter penalties for hitting and/or killing a pedestrian while illegally passing a school bus. Shinkle also reported that the Child Fatality Task Force is considering the introduction of a bill this year to give cities the option to contract with private companies to administer school bus camera enforcement programs.
Other states with school bus stop-arm video laws are: Arkansas, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Mississippi, Rhode Island, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.
Shinkle stated that school buses are “by far the safest option to transport students to and from school” but also noted the dangers outside buses, especially in the “danger zone” at bus stops.
While only about 1 to 2 percent of student transportation fatalities are associated with school bus travel, Shinkle warned that students are especially at risk of injuries or death at bus stops because drivers often ignore or don’t understand school bus stop laws. An often-reported statistic from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services from a national bus stop survey conducted last year indicates that at least 76,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses on a given day.