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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

"PSD: Too many vehicles overtaking buses"

It’s state law that when a school bus stops, traffic stops, too, but some motorists are not following the law, according to the Paragould School District.

Richard Shelby, assistant superintendent, said the school is observing motorists passing stopped school buses on a near daily basis.

“In the Baldwin school area it’s just become blatant,” Shelby said. “Something’s got to be done before someone gets hurt.”

In 2009, 26 children were killed getting on or off a school bus, or while waiting at the school bus stop. During the past 10 years, about 29 children were killed in school bus-related pedestrian accidents when they were struck while getting on or off a school bus, according to the School Bus Information Clearinghouse.

The district is turning to the latest technology in an effort to clamp down on illegal bus passing. 247Security Inc.’s 51X Series Digital Video Recorder records digital video of the interior and exterior of the bus and a rear-mounted camera captures a picture of a vehicle’s license plate as it passes a stopped bus.

“We’re not interested in catching people speeding. This is all about prevention,” Shelby said. “We’re required by law to turn them in.”

The district has about 30 buses with three to five cameras on each. Not every bus has a rear-mounted camera, which is being added as needed, Shelby said.

Paragould police said at least six affidavits provided by the Paragould School District have been sent to the prosecuting attorney’s office for issuance of a warrant. However, because an officer did not witness the violation, alleged offenders would not be arrested but would receive a district court date.

Passing a stationary school bus is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of not less than $200 and not more than $1,000 and up to 90 days confinement in the county jail, according to Arkansas code.

Rob Scott is 247Security’s vice president of marketing and sales. He said the external camera was developed with the express desire to record stop-arm runners. Scott cited a New York School District study that found there was one illegal drive-by per day for each of the 50,000 school buses operating in that district.

“It’s very dangerous of course,” he said.

The system has been available for about five years, but Arkansas is the first state to pilot a program installing the system on the bus fleets of about 40 districts, he said.

“The focus of the pilot program was to see if the state could curb incidences of stop arm runners. I think it’s a tribute to your people at the state department,” Scott said. “It’s the most aggressive program in the nation that I am aware of.”

The main product, a digital video recorder, has the capacity for up to four cameras. Scott said a global positioning device (GPS) tracks the vehicle and records basic operating information such as speed, breaking, idling time and stop time and pairs that information with the time and location it was recorded.

Shelby said the data will assist the school initially in backing up claims of stop-arm running and answering complaints about when and where a bus was on a certain day. Eventually, Shelby said the data could help the district improve efficiency on its bus routes.

Original Article: "PSD: Too many vehicles overtaking buses | District goes hi-tech in effort to curb offenses" By John Griffith, Paragould Daily Press, Published: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 12:12 PM CDT
Original Article can be found by clicking HERE.