WASHINGTON — An expansion of the Montgomery County school bus camera program for automated enforcement will include technology upgrades for inside of the buses.
The county announced earlier this month that it would expand beyond the initial 25 cameras used to ticket vehicles that illegally pass buses with the stop arm activated.
As more enforcement cameras are added, buses will also receive new gear to help the school system with general security and crash investigations.
The buses will be installed with GPS locaters, interior live video feeds and voice-over-internet audio connections to back up the existing radio system. Exterior cameras will be installed on the rear and front of the buses.
The new equipment will be installed along with the stop-arm cameras.
“We’ll get the first 100 (new camera systems) out as fast as we possibly can and then another 500 within 18 months,” said Captain Tom Didone, director of the Montgomery County Police Department Traffic Division. “Within three years, the entire fleet will be outfitted.”
The county schools run 1,200 buses to transport about 100,000 students.
The fine issued through the camera enforcement is $125. In comparison, drivers ticketed by a police officer for illegally passing a school bus with its stop arm out are fined $570 and receive three points on their licenses.
“Our school buses in Montgomery get passed many hundreds of times every school day,” said Todd Watkins, transportation director for Montgomery County Public Schools, during a Friday news conference.
Officials blamed the high rate of violations on driver inattention, ignorance of the law and drivers who are in a hurry. Since the pilot program began in January 2014, the stop-arm cameras captured about 4,800 violations.
When a school bus is stopped and the flashing stop sign is activated to collect or unload children, it is illegal for a vehicle to pass in any direction unless there is a physical barrier such as a raised median between the bus and vehicle.
Several other area school systems have at least some buses equipped with cameras for automated enforcement.
They include Arlington County and Falls Church City in Virginia and in Maryland, Charles, Prince George’s, Washington and Frederick counties.
Montgomery County students return to class on Monday.
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