That assessment is based on the results of a one-day test in January during which district bus drivers kept track of the number of times other drivers illegally passed their buses as they were stopped. There were 400 such incidents in January, less than half the number counted during a similar one-day test last year. And it was only about a fourth of the 1,600 violations reported during the first such test back in 2011. That’s the good news.
“I would say it’s brought into the bright light the concern for stopping for school buses,” Lt. Hawk Hagebak of the Cobb Police Department’s Traffic Services Unit said of the cameras. “Driving down the road, you don’t know if the bus has a camera or not.”
About 1 of every 12 of the Cobb district’s 1,202 buses is equipped with the cameras, which were first installed back in 2010 at the cost of $200 each. It was a worthy investment aimed a reducing the likelihood of children being mowed down by speeding, careless drivers. And anyone who has ever spent much time in a school zone knows there are always a few such drivers.
The buses initially were equipped with one camera each.
Then Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions paid to have six more cameras installed on the buses last year. One of the cameras is pointed toward the front wheels of the bus and another toward the rear ones, recording possible violations on video. Meanwhile, a large yellow box containing five other cameras is situated in the middle of the bus to snap pictures of the license plates of lawbreakers.
As for the fines involved, $134,059 has been raised thus far from the 1,092 citations issues. Violators pay $300 for a first offense, $750 for a second and $1,000 for each additional violation for five years. It would seem a better solution would be to take away the licenses of repeat violators.
The bulk of the revenue from the fines — 75 percent during the program’s first year, and less thereafter — was kept by ATS, with the remainder split between the county government and the school district.
ATS is looking at various other bus routes to see if more cameras need to be added to buses, and on which routes. One would think that they should be on all school buses, not just a select few as at present. But that would involve a substantial cost, no doubt.
It appears that, based on the declining number of violations recorded, that many local drivers are starting to “get the message,” i.e., that local school buses are camera-equipped and cannot be passed with impunity, as was the case for so long for so many callous motorists.
Now here’s the bad news: What’s frightening is what last month’s study also showed — that each of the 102 camera-equipped buses was passed illegally an average of four times on the day in question. Multiply that figure by 12, and then multiply the sum of those numbers by the number of school days.
It’s another tragedy waiting to happen — and another argument both for increasing the number of cameras on school buses, and for more rigorous patrolling in school zones by Cobb police.