With the signature of Gov. Roy Cooper on a new law to protect students on buses, school officials are hoping unruly drivers think twice of ignoring the stop arms.
Senate Bill 55 permits North Carolina districts to install cameras to take photos or capture footage of motorists who illegally pass a stopped school bus. Vicki Westbrook, director of transportation for Sampson County Schools (SCS), reported that the district is waiting to receive more information from the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction before any action is taken.
“We have interior cameras on 99 percent of our buses,” Westbrook said. “We have a few with stop arm cameras. But we do not have all of our buses equipped with them.”
Susan Warren, the student services and public relations official for SCS, supported the bill signed by Cooper.
“It’s for the safety of our students,” Warren said. “If the general public is aware that there are cameras, they will not pass those stopped school buses.”
With the law, violators can receive a ticket and other consequences include paying a civil penalty or a fine of $400 or more. The pictures and cameras may also be used by law enforcement officials for criminal charges.
During a previous Sampson County Board of Education meeting, it was reported that on a monitored day, close to 20 drivers disobeyed stop arms in the county.
“I think you’ve probably encountered situations where they’ve gone around buses and shouldn’t,” Warren said. “I have seen it myself.”
According to the news release, some districts throughout the state have already adopted the camera technology. The new law will allow school districts to install cameras after their counties pass ordinances.
“Speeding past a stopped school bus puts children’s lives at risk,” Cooper said. “With this new law in place, we have another tool to help children who ride the school bus travel safely.”
If finalized, the outside cameras will be another step towards bus safety in Sampson County. In 2016, the Sampson County Schools Board of Education approved a GPS system to track buses during routes. The technology from Synovia Solutions also helps with driver analysis and time keeping. There were also talks about implementing an app called “Here Comes the Bus,” which allows parents to track their child’s bus.
In 2016, school bus drivers were also required to use hand signals for students crossing roads. The procedure was established by the North Carolina State Board of Education.