Camera Program Nets 272 Drivers Passing Stopped School Buses

A MCPS bus outfitted with one of five new school bus cameras to catch drivers who pass stopped buses (file photo)Montgomery County’s new school bus camera program resulted in 272 citations in just three months for drivers passing a stopped bus, according to a County Council report.

Since Montgomery County Police and Montgomery County Public Schools started the program in January, there have been 272 citations issued, 128 of which have been paid. The Police have collected $16,000 in fines and four cases are scheduled for court.

The program was not included in County Executive Isiah Leggett’s recommended operating budget for next fiscal year. On Monday, the Council’s Public Safety and Education Committees will likely ask county budget officials how the county intends to pay $250,000 annually for its three-year contract with the vendor for the program.

Police project that about 100 citations will be issued per month during the 2014-2015 school year. That means 1,000 total citations over a 10-month school calendar. Assuming a 90 percent collection rate, that would net the county about $112,500 in revenue. Citations run $125 each.

The cameras are attached to the side of 25 MCPS buses and triggered to catch drivers who pass school buses at a stop when the stop sign arm is extended and flashing. MCP and MCPS hope to wire an additional 75 buses for cameras “to move cameras along high priority routes as needed.”

MCPS picks the routes based on bus driver reports.

The program was in response to anecdotal evidence and surveys that found a high rate of Montgomery County drivers passing stopped school buses. County officials were worried about those reports, as students often run across the street to catch a bus or step out in front of the bus while crossing the street.

In August 2013, 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.

And it turns out the 272 citations issued so far may not have captured every illegally passing driver. According to police, snow and excessive road salt this winter meant the original cameras didn’t have the best photo quality. The system has already been upgraded.

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