The Charles County Board of Education is mounting cameras on the sides of school buses to monitor speed and take pictures of cars that are not coming to a stop when the bus stop sign comes out. People are violating the law to yield to flashing bus lights and stop signs, and cars are blowing right by stopped buses when they are picking up and dropping off students. This creates a hazard for students who have to cross the road because they risk the possibility of being hit by a car.
Evelyn Arnold, the principal of La Plata High School, stated that one of the news stations showed actual video of drivers running bus stop signs. “It was pretty terrifying to see students literally dodging cars that almost clipped them as they were crossing the street,” Arnold said. The state law requires that traffic must come to a complete halt in both directions while the school bus is stopped and the stop sign is displayed. The cameras will ticket people who pass the school buses without stopping.
“You can’t put a price on students’ lives and safety. Some of the revenue will come from the tickets issued to drivers who break the law. The camera costs may be covered through ticket revenue and not increased taxes,” Arnold said.
“The stop sign cameras are a great idea because when kids are getting on and off the bus they have to cross the street and are exposed to oncoming traffic. This should make drivers think twice about passing a stopped bus that is picking up and dropping off kids,” said John Darbie, a student at La Plata High School who rides a school bus every day.
It is simply illegal to pass a stopped school bus with its stop sign extended and lights flashing, and the cameras’ priorities are to makes students’ lives safer. The Charles County Sheriff’s Office, in coalition with the Charles County Board of Education, will send out a warning first to the driver who failed to complete the stop; the next time it happens a ticket will be issued. Other public school bus systems are considering putting cameras on their buses but are waiting to see if the state will authorize tickets for the violating drivers instead of sending them a warning first.