A County Councilmember says the county hasn’t moved fast enough to install safety cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped school buses.
Councilmember Valerie Ervin (D-Silver Spring) wrote a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and County Attorney Marc Hansen earlier this month to express her frustration that Montgomery County Police are still awaiting legal guidance on issuing a request for proposal to implement the initiative.
The cameras, which would be attached on school buses and used to penalize drivers who pass buses while picking up and dropping off students, was enacted in March 2012 and made effective June 15, 2012.
“There have been legal and contractual issues that have unduly delayed implementation of a program that should not have taken this long,” Leggett spokesperson Patrick Lacefield wrote in an email.
Ervin said she would request a joint meeting of the Council’s Education and Public Safety Committees to delve into the delay and called the issue “extremely urgent.”
She sent the memo on Aug. 13. Just a day earlier, the Maryland State Department of Education released a one-day survey that showed 1,078 drivers in Montgomery County ignored the stop arms on school buses.
Drivers caught on camera illegally passing a stopped school bus would be fined $250. If a school bus driver can personally identify a violator, a conviction could lead to a misdemeanor carrying a fine of up to $1,000 and three points.
MCPS started its school year on Monday. The system has 1,296 buses that transports more than 100,000 of its roughly 150,000 students each day. According to a MCPS press release, the system has 1,100 bus routes with more than 40,000 bus stops.
At a school transportation safety event with federal officials on Aug. 15, MCPS Director of Transportation Todd Watkins spoke about the importance of stopping behind buses that have stop arms out and lights flashing.
“When you see a stopped school bus on the road, no matter how late you are, no matter how much of a hurry you’re in, stop,” Watkins said. “Because every time somebody makes a decision to pass a stopped school bus, it’s a potentially life-changing tragedy for some student and their family.”