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Md. county adding cameras to school buses

Wednesday - 3/7/2012, 12:38pm  ET

school-bus-375.jpg
School bus stop signs are being ignored, and lawmakers say the safety of students is compromised by drivers who don't stop. (Thinkstock)

WASHINGTON - Montgomery County has voted to install automated cameras on school buses to catch drivers who blow through stop signs on the vehicles.

"I tell you, I'd like the ability to make a citizen's arrest, because I see so many people violating this on such a regular basis," says County Councilmember Nancy Floreen.

While the county will not be able to outfit all 1,264 public school buses with the new externeal cameras, targeted enforcement on certain routes will be a reality.

"It tends to be roads like Clopper Road, like Old Columbia Pike. Roads that are not neighborhood residential streets. It tends to be ones that are used on commuter routes," Todd Watkins, director of transportation for Montgomery County Public Schools tells WTOP.

"I don't know whether people are in a hurry and they just decide they are not going to wait, but (the violations) tend to be on those kinds of routes," he says.

No start date has been announced for the new program, but school officials are eyeing next school year to get the cameras up and running. Maryland law allows for automated cameras to be placed on the outside of school buses.

The high-tech cameras cost between $5,000 and $8,000. The cameras snap pictures of the license plates of vehicles that pass by school bus stop signs, and the driver can be sent a ticket in the mail. The automated ticketing process works the same way as red-light and speed cameras.

The council on Tuesday voted unanimously to institute the program. Drivers caught by the cameras can expect a maximum fine of $250 but no points on their driving record. Those caught by an officer going through a school bus stop sign face a $570 citation that can be increased by a judge.

A Maryland State Department of Education survey released last year showed 7,028 drivers overtook stopped buses in Maryland during a single day in February.

Video obtained by WTOP from the Montgomery County Public Schools system showed the scene play out over and over again.

"We see violations on a daily basis and our main concern was making sure that the students are able to safely travel to and from school," bus driver Bob Herron says.

For clarification, drivers passing a bus on the other side of a physical median do not have to stop, Watkins says.

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WTOP's Adam Tuss and Kate Ryan contributed to this report. Follow Adam, Kate and WTOP on Twitter.

(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)