Published Online: June 7, 2010
Published in Print: June 9, 2010, as Iowa Turns a Bus Camera On Bad Drivers

Buses Catch Bad Drivers on Camera

The Fort Madison school district, which already has cameras inside its buses to watch the students, is now putting cameras on the outside to catch drivers who illegally pass in this Iowa community.

It’s illegal to pass a school bus when it’s slowing down and its yellow lights are flashing, just as it’s illegal to pass when a bus stops and its red lights are flashing.

“Some people don’t know that. They think it’s like a street light. When the yellow light comes on, hit the gas and go through,” said Steve Carle, the school district’s transportation director.

The district installed a camera on its largest bus, which can carry 89 students, last month.

“We average between two to four violators every day,” Mr. Carle said.

The camera, which cost about $2,300, begins recording as the bus starts. When someone passes illegally, the bus driver pushes a button that marks the video. The video, which shows the car and the license plate, is reviewed by school officials and the Iowa State Patrol, which can issue a ticket.

Mr. Carle said that when students see the bus coming, they start walking toward it before it comes to a stop. That’s when the violators come flying by, and an accident could occur, he said.

“It’s all about safety. That’s where I’m hanging my hat,” he said.

District officials have ordered three more of the exterior school bus cameras, which are being paid for by a combination of grants, federal economic-stimulus funds, and school transportation funds.

The fine for passing a school bus with flashing lights is $195.

At least 10 people were ticketed in the first three weeks of the program, Mr. Carle said.

Vol. 29, Issue 33, Pages 14-15

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