Drivers who ignore school bus stop signs in a Chester County district will be captured on camera — and fined
It’s part of a partnership with a company that supplies school buses with stop arm cameras that capture footage and license plates of cars — a program made possible by a change in Pennsylvania law.
Starting late next week, drivers who breeze past stop signs on school buses in the Phoenixville Area School District will be fined $300.
It’s part of a partnership with a company that supplies school buses with stop-arm cameras that capture footage and license plates of cars — a program made possible last year by a change in Pennsylvania law.
The Virginia-based company, BusPatrol, supplies school districts with cameras and receives footage of drivers illegally passing stopped buses. It then supplies the footage to local police departments, which approve the issuance of fines.
The fines pay for the program: BusPatrol, which provides the cameras for free, receives $150 of the $300, according to the company. The school district gets $100; police, $25; and the state, $25.
Phoenixville is among the first in the Philadelphia region to adopt the program, which BusPatrol says it’s also launching in the Methacton and Spring-Ford districts. The company, which began operating in 2017 and has equipped school buses in a number of states with cameras, is marketing the service as a way to improve safety.
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A pilot program the company ran on two Allentown school buses documented 208 violations over 47 days. In contrast, 677 tickets for bus stop violations were issued throughout Pennsylvania in all of 2018, according to the company.
Police say enforcing bus stop violations traditionally has been a challenge: A bus driver who spots an offender may only catch a partial license plate number — and may not be able to identify the person driving.
But changes to Pennsylvania law now allow the owner of a car that illegally passes a school bus to be held liable, even if police haven’t identified the driver. That — coupled with changes to the fine structure — has enabled schools to partner with companies like BusPatrol, which has opened an office in Allentown and says it’s talking to a number of local districts to expand the program.
In Phoenixville, Police Lt. Brian Marshall brought the idea to the school district after hearing about it at a police chiefs’ conference.
“It’s much better than we’ve ever had, because we never had video before,” Marshall said. “We don’t follow buses around.”
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While violators caught by the cameras once the policy begins Oct 1. will receive a fine in the mail, they won’t be subject to points on their driving records, Marshall said. He said people would be able to contest the violations at a hearing.
Phoenixville superintendent Alan Fegley said he hoped the cameras — installed on all 72 of the district’s buses — would spur better behavior. One of the district’s drivers reported seeing three people run the stop signs in the past week, he said.
“It always surprises me when I hear that. Generally, I see people stop,” Fegley said. “But I guess it’s more prevalent than I realize.”
In Suffolk County, New York, cameras installed on 5,000 school buses resulted in 30,000 violations in the first 60 days, said Jean Souliere, BusPatrol’s CEO.
“When you watch them, they’re not accidents, they’re choices,” Souliere said. “People disrespect the school bus.”