With Georgia leading the nation in school bus fatalities, the Newton County School Board is taking advantage of recent legislation that allows stop arm cameras on buses and discussing the possibility of outfitting the county’s buses with the new technology.
Four children were killed in Metro Atlanta in the 2008-09 school year, and one child was killed last month in Douglasville. These deaths were a direct result of drivers ignoring the school bus stop arm and speeding around it or past it, striking the children exiting their bus.
In the past, Newton County drivers have had to try to grab a pen and paper and get the plate number of the driver, which doesn’t always happen. With this technology they wouldn’t have to worry about it, the camera would catch everything.
The new legislation, passed on July 1, 2011, allows for camera enforcement of school bus warning device violations. The penalties are $300 for the first offense, $750 for the second and $1,000 for the third within a five-year period. The violations will go to the registered owner of the vehicles.
A memorandum to the board from Superintendent Gary Mathews recommended they approve an agreement with American Traffic Solutions, Inc, and to execute an interagency agreement with the Newton County Sheriff’s Office to review all violations caught on tape. The term of both agreements would be five years under the recommendation.
“School buses are by far the safest mode of transportation for students,” according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. However, “safely loading and unloading students at designated bus stops requires public awareness and enforcement of school bus stop laws,” reads the memo. “As part of a national survey, school bus drivers in Newton County reported 92 violations on a single day in May 2011.”
The thought is the NCSS would outfit between 10-12 percent of its buses and they would speak with the drivers to see which areas had the most violations.
If approved, the instillation of the camera system, the violation processing services, mailing of the first notice, web payment access with a user convince fee charged to the violator, call center report and a standard report would be included in the services. The fees per camera system per school bus would be 75 percent of the program revenue for the prior month for the first year, 60 percent for the second year and 50 percent for years three through five. Essentially, the cost would be paid by the violators.
The board is expected to vote on the program at their monthly meeting Tuesday.