North County Outlook - Community newspaper serving Marysville, Arlington, Tulalip, Smokey Point, Lakewood

MSD begins using school bus cameras

The cameras are intended to catch drivers who ignore the stop sign arms

 

photo courtesy of American Traffic Solutions

The school bus cameras, center, from American Traffic Solutions that will soon be on Marysville School District buses.

The Marysville School District will roll out new cameras for their school buses that will catch drivers ignoring the stop sign arm and driving past.

The district is partnering with the Marysville Police Department to use the cameras from American Traffic Solutions.

The cameras will be installed on the side of the school bus.

"These are cameras to catch people passing when the stop arm is out," said Sergeant Wayne Davis with the Marysville Police Department.

When the stop arm is out the camera detects vehicles passing the arm in either direction and records the offender's license plate.

Video is sent to American Traffic Solutions to verify that a plate is visible, that the car made a violation and that the license plate matches the car's make and model on record.

After being verified the video is sent to the police department, said Davis, where an officer double checks those items.

Once processed the officer can decline or accept the violation.

"So, for instance, if it was a violation where the stop arm just popped out and just at that moment a car passed, the officer may decide 'no, that was too close,'" said Davis.

If accepted, the information goes back to American Traffic Solutions, who alert the driver and the local court of the offense.

The penalty for a stop-arm violation is a $416 fine and in some cases a reckless driving charge may apply as well.

Revenue gained from these fines does not go to the police department, said Davis, and instead goes to the school district, where it can only be spent on safety and security measures, and the courts, where it can only be spent to cover the cost of running the fine cases.

The school district and the City of Marysville wanted to work together to improve safety for kids.

"We worked together looking for ways to create a safer environment for kids," said Davis.

"This is a violation that occurs frequently and they're very dangerous," he said, because kids frequently cross roads in front of buses.

"Keeping our children safe is our number one priority. We want to change driver behaviors in a positive way to protect the lives of the children who ride a school bus to and from school every day," said Marysville School District Transportation Supervisor Kim McAbee.

Stop-arm violations are difficult to police and the cameras will help enforcement, said Davis.

"Prior to this the school bus driver could report violations to us, but because this was an infraction all we could do is send a warning," he said.

"There's no real punishment because we couldn't send a fine," he said.

Some drivers may not be aware of all the laws regarding school buses and the stop arm, McAbee said.

Courtesy Marysville Police Department

This graphic shows when vehicles must stop when school buses have their stop bars extended.

"Our goal is to educate and awaken drivers to the dangers of illegally passing school buses," said McAbee. "Some Washington drivers are not educated on school bus stop laws in our state and are unintentionally putting our students' lives in danger."

In Washington state, on a two-lane road, both directions of traffic must stop if the stop-arm of a school bus is out. If there are more than three lanes on the road than the traffic in the opposite direction of the bus does not have to stop.

The cameras became legal in 2011 after the Washington state legislature passed a bill to allow districts to equip their buses with video cameras for the purpose of catching those who illegally drive by.

State law doesn't allow for catching the drivers face, but cameras can record license plates, said Davis.

The new cameras are scheduled to go into effect on March 15, however there will be a 30-day grace period where offenders will only receive a warning.

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