East Allegheny School District officials say they are tired of motorists ignoring state law prohibiting them from passing stopped school buses.
Through a partnership with local law enforcement and the safety company BusPatrol, the district now has measures in place to identify the license plates of drivers who put students at risk.
“This is a positive and creative example of the East Allegheny School District doing what we can to protect our students,” said East Allegheny safety coordinator Mark Draskovich.
The district’s fleet of 38 buses has been equipped with technology to detect the license plates of vehicles that fail to stop for buses.
A camera box mounted to the side of the bus is activated when the driver stops and deploys its stop arms, which can detect and record license plates. A second 180-degree camera mounted over the side windows records violations with the stop arms in frame. Additional cameras offer better rear and side views for bus drivers.
Information and video from the cameras is shared with police in order to issue citations.
Pennsylvania law requires drivers to stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights and stop arms activated. The penalty for a first-time violation is $300.
District officials said the upgrades will come at no cost, and that installation and maintenance are funded over a 5-year term by revenue generated from citations. The cameras and equipment record violations, BusPatrol staff process them and work with local law enforcement, and then use revenue from the fines to cover installation costs.
During Operation Safe Stop 2021, an annual PennDOT initiative focused on proactive bus safety enforcement, authorities reported more than 250 stop-arm violations in one school day.
In the Allentown School District in 2020, officials recorded drivers illegally passing just two buses more than 200 times over a 47-day study period.
“Our program is proven to change driver behavior and reduce violations by up to 30% year-over-year,” said BusPatrol spokesperson Kate Spree.
East Allegheny launched its safety program on Aug. 24, which came after apublic awareness campaign about bus safety laws.
Pittsburgh Public Schools partnered with BusPatrol at the start of the 2022-‘23 school year, recording more than 10,000 violations.
That’s an average of nearly 93 per weekday.
During its public awareness campaign, Pittsburgh Public School bus cameras recorded more than 19,000 violations. During a pre-launch period, when violators were only issued a warning letter by mail, the cameras recorded 1,700 violations. The district began official enforcement in early July.
The McKeesport Area School District also partnered with the company, launching its bus safety program in February .
More than 20 Pennsylvania school districts currently partner with BusPatrol.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Patrick by email at email@example.com or via Twitter .