Since the Cornwall Lebanon School District installed cameras on the sides of its buses in December, video software has captured 25 to 30 vehicles that passed its buses illegally while the bus stop signs were out and flashing.
The video software is in a trial phase: None of the recorded violations will be passed along to law enforcement for citations. But a bill sponsored in part by Rep. Seth Grove, R-Dover Township, would allow school districts across the state to implement the technology.
The House transportation committee held a hearing about House Bill 1580 at York College Thursday, where legislators could see how the technology works and ask questions of Grove and school bus officials.
When a car passes illegally during a bus stop, it is the bus driver's responsibility to remember the make of the vehicle, a description of the driver and the license plate number to turn over to police. That's all while watching out for the safety of the students boarding the bus and the 60 to 70 other student passengers, said Blake Krapf, president-elect of the Pennsylvania School Bus Association and CEO of Krapf Bus Co.
"It's a lot to capture in a split second," Krapf said at the hearing.
The technology: The video technology would serve as a "force multiplier" for police departments who can't possibly follow each school bus to watch for those violations, said Jillian Meinke, director of Redflex Student Guardian. The company has provided school bus video monitoring since 2008, when Rhode Island passed a similar law. Seven other states have followed suit.
When the red stop sign on a bus is extended, the video monitoring becomes activated, Meinke said. It will capture video footage of any vehicle passing the bus during the entire time the stop sign is flashing and wirelessly send it to the company's processing center. There, three people review the footage to weed out any false violations, such as when vehicles don't stop on a divided highway.
The footage is then sent to police, who make the final decision about whether a ticket should be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle.
If the violation is only recorded on video, the owner will receive a flat $250 fine, Grove said. If the bus driver can provide a description and attest to the violator's identity with the video evidence to back that up, that person could face other citations for passing a school bus, which can include a 60-day license suspension and five points on the offender's driving record.
Student Guardian has no fees for school districts or bus companies: Instead, the cost of installing the equipment is covered by violator's fines. The company also retains ownership of the video equipment, which means it would be responsible for any necessary repairs.
Grove said there are still details of the bill to work on, including whether local or state police departments will receive the video evidence. The transportation committee will need to vote on the bill before it moves to the full House for a vote.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.