By this fall, at least some school buses in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, should be outfitted with cameras that will be aimed at drivers who aren’t stopping for buses that have stopped for kids.
In a county that hasn’t legalized speed or red light cameras (though the city of Annapolis has), the county council unanimously agreed that school buses should be equipped with cameras for automatic enforcement that catches people who violate the law when it comes to school buses stopped with flashing red lights turned on.
“If this is Big Brother, it’s Big Brother trying to save little sister,” said Bob Mosier, a spokesman for Anne Arundel County Public Schools, which sees 60,000 kids ride a school bus every day. “We should all be behind that.”
Under state law, violators caught on camera going pass a stopped school bus are subject to a $250 ticket. The ticket is sent to whoever is that vehicle’s registered owner.
“We’re dealing with the lives of children here,” Mosier said. “This is not a revenue-generating proposition by anybody. This is trying to keep children safe.”
When the law takes effect in 44 days, the county will put out a request from vendors seeking to outfit the county bus fleet with cameras. Eventually, every school bus in the county will have one, though by the time the next school year starts in the fall, only some of the buses are likely to have them.
By law, drivers have to stop for a school bus anytime the stop arm is out and red lights are flashing, whether they’re going the same direction as the bus or going the opposite direction. The only exception is if there’s a median in the road between the bus and the passing vehicle.
But, Mosier said, the amount of times drivers don’t stop, for whatever reason, is “staggering.”
“School transportation directors around the country, every year, do a single-day study where they ask bus drivers to just catalog the number of times a car runs past them,” Mosier said.
In 2019, he said, there were 95,000 incidents nationwide on that single day. “In the last three years, that number has gone up 28% across the country. It’s gone up 47% in Maryland.”
In Maryland, the total number of those incidents shot up from 4,300 or so in 2016 to 6,400 in 2019.
“It’s a huge problem, and it’s getting worse,” he said, adding that a student was struck by a car earlier this school year in Severna Park as she got off her bus. Fortunately, Mosier said, she survived, though she was injured.
“It’s absolutely a problem that people see and there are lots of causes to it,” Mosier said. “There’s congested roads. There’s people trying to get someplace with less time. There’s distracted driving. There are all of those things. The cause of it doesn’t matter to us. We want to keep our children safe.”
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