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School bus stop arm cameras catch drivers illegally passing | #schoolsaftey

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. — A new law, Senate Bill 766, allows school districts to place cameras on the outside of school buses, with the hopes of cracking down on the number of people passing buses when their stop arms are displayed.

What You Need To Know

  • Senate Bill 766 went into effect July 1, 2023
  • Brevard County participated in a pilot program for the 2022-2023 school year by placing cameras on 10 school buses
  • According to bus driver Mark Rainey, the cameras captured more than 5,000 violations during the year; averaging about three violations a day
  • Brevard County is looking to expand the pilot program and place cameras on all of its buses

Last school year, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office wrote 26 traffic citations for people illegally passing school buses displaying their stop signs. The Osceola County Sheriff’s Office wrote 126 citations.

These violations made the new law a topic of discussion for several districts that were looking to implement SB766 and improve student safety on and off school buses.

In Brevard County, its public school system has been testing safety cameras before the bill was introduced.

Mark Rainey has been driving school buses in Brevard County for about three years. He became a bus driver to help out during the shortage and has become well-known in his community for his advocacy when it comes to better pay and work conditions for drivers.

Rainey said that while he sees the progress the county has made to make the job more appealing, one thing they have not been able to control is the number of people that unsafely and illegally pass school buses displaying stop arms.

“I mean the handbook for driving, clearly defines all of the situations for school buses and when you’re supposed to stop as a passenger car and so forth,” Rainey said. 

On any given day Rainey said bus drivers in the county can drive anywhere from 100 to 200 miles a day, depending on if they drive both the before-school and after-school sessions. With more than 70,000 students in the school district, about 21,000 of them are transported by buses.

Rainey said that the responsibility of a bus driver is to ensure those students get to and from school safely, following pretty strenuous protocols for student safety along with a few extra measures of his own.

“I’m looking to make sure that all the cars are stopping to the red before I do it, and then I’ll open the door and bring the students on in a safe way,” Rainey said.

However, he said even those additional steps haven’t stopped drivers from passing anyway.

“That convinced us that we needed to put reminder cameras on all of our buses,” he said.

Last school year, when BCPS participated in a pilot program in partnership with a company called Bus Patrol, they tested the concept that exterior cameras would help by placing cameras on 10 of their buses.

“In that pilot program last year, there were 5,361 violations, so about 3.8 violations per day,” Rainey said.

In a statement on Aug. 3, Bus Patrol CEO and President Karoon Monfared emphasized the importance of this new law and bus safety programs.

“Our state leadership understands that school districts need the tools and resources available to crack down on illegal school bus passings,” he said. “With back to school around the corner, we encourage school officials to adopt school bus stop-arm safety programs to help protect their students and make our roads safer.”

Through the program, Rainey said a photo of the violators is captured and they can be ticketed, further consequences can apply if a law enforcement officer is present during the time of the violation.

Rainey said the goal isn’t to get people in trouble but to remind and inform drivers of the dos and don’ts when it comes to stopping for school buses and the importance of paying attention on the roadways.

Rainey said one scenario in particular that he believes confuses drivers when it comes to stopping for school buses is when there are multiple lanes with a median.

“There might be four or five lanes with a lane in the middle that’s painted,” Rainey said. “If its just got a painted turn lane, both lanes must stop.”

But, no matter the reason, officials say illegally passing school buses with stop arms is a big issue and for the safety of students, something must be done to stop it from happening.

After the results of the pilot program, Rainey said the district is committed to placing cameras on all of its school buses. He did not specify if that would be implemented by the start of the 2023-24 school year or if it will be rolled out over time.

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