Equipping school buses with cameras is safety smart – Sentinel & Enterprise

You’re late for work, a predicament complicated by heavy morning rush-hour traffic. And just when you get some daylight, a flashing school bus pops out its stop sign, bringing you to a screeching halt.

Now, do you tempt fate by hitting the accelerator and going around that bus, or simply stew in silence until you get the all-clear sign to proceed.

Unfortunately, in too any cases, safety takes a back seat to expediency, which exposes those students entering or leaving that bus to serious bodily harm and even death.

Over the course of a one-year study, researchers found more than 300 incidents in Medford and Quincy alone of vehicles illegally driving by school buses that were displaying stop signs, according to state Rep. Paul Donato.

That was in 2011. Bills have been filed every session since then that would empower every community to install similar video cameras on school buses — and to punish violations they record — but the Legislature has yet to pass any into law.

Undaunted, Donato and other supporters renewed their call Tuesday for legislation that cracks down on these scofflaws.

Several bills are once again before the Joint Committee on Transportation to permit installation of bus stop cameras, including one filed by Donato (H 2998), a Medford Democrat. Police would then review potential violations to determine if they warrant civil citations.

Lawmakers wisely omitted a potential roadblock to passing such a law by not subjecting violators to any insurance surcharges.

Advocates of the legislation urged like-minded lawmakers to keep pressing the issue, warning that children remain at risk due to lawmakers’ inaction. “This is a serious problem,” David Strong, president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts, told the State House News Service. “It always has been, but every year it gets worse.”

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Statistics back him up. In a 2017 report, bus drivers in 29 states recorded the number of times that vehicles ignored school buses with flashing red lights and visible stop signs over the course of a single day. That translated into 77,000 incidents on that one day alone, according to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

David Poirier, president of Bus Patrol America, the company that contracts with public entities to install safety technology on buses, went further. In testimony before the transportation panel, he described the frequency of incidents as “a national crisis.”

Since law enforcement can’t be everywhere, motorists know the probability of being nabbed for not stopping for a stationary school bus lies somewhere between slim and none.

This legislation’s supporters argue that technology presents the only viable way to rein in these potentially dangerous motor-vehicle violations.

Rep. Linda Dean Campbell, D-Methuen, who previously has advocated for similar legislation, told the committee she’s confident it can pass this time around because concerns over driver privacy and custody of videos were resolved in previous efforts.

Obviously, lawmakers must consider the cost involved with equipping school buses in every one of the state’s public school districts with video cameras.

However, failing to do so just increases the potential for serious injuries or fatalities — tragedies that can’t be defended by concerns over the bottom line.


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