DRIVERS BEWARE: Cameras could net fines for passing a stopped school bus

Published 1:12 am Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Local school systems are exploring their options to make use of a new law that was created to allow cameras on school buses.

The cameras will be installed on the stop arms of school buses to help monitor cars that illegally pass school buses.


0712-BUS-Stop-2Alabama Department of Education Program Coordinator for Pupil Transportation Kevin Snowden said that there were 1,361 illegal passings last year.

A law passed in April and sponsored by Sen. Jimmy Holley, R- Elba, allows for a $300 fine statewide for any motorist a video proves illegally passed a stopped school bus.

The bill allows school boards to OK the use of “Any camera or recording device that uses a vehicle sensor and camera synchronized by photograph or video the rear of a motor vehicle approaching or overtaking a school bus that is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging school children in violation of Section 32-5A-154, Code of Alabama, 1975.”

The law gives school systems the authority to enter into contracts with third-party providers to install and maintain the cameras.

State law requires that cars stop behind school buses that are employing a stop sign on the vehicle. It also says that a vehicle may not pass the bus until the sign has folded back to the bus’s side.

Revenue generated from tickets issued would be split 40-40 between the county-city and the school systems, with the 20 percent remaining going to the state department of education and the Alabama Department of Public Safety.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson favored the bill.

“I think it’s a good law,” he said. “It allows school systems to take an account of people who blatantly break the law. We take safety very seriously. We have had many people pass our stopped school buses.”

Watson said he hopes to add the cameras as the system replaces its aging fleet of buses.

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart said they are currently exploring options.

“We are exploring our options to determined the preferred vendor to contract with,” he said. “Loading and unloading buses is the most dangerous situation we have relative to student transportation and any steps we can take to improve safety we will.”

Covington County has not been immune to accidents involving stopped school buses.

In October, an Opp school bus loaded had just loaded students at the intersection of Hwy. 84 West and Substation Road on its morning bus route, when it was struck in the rear by a 2004 Mercedes.

Seven children were transported to Mizell Memorial Hospital and a 40-year-old man from Dothan died at the scene.

In October 2014, a Straughn school bus was involved in a three-vehicle accident, but there were no injuries when a vehicle struck another vehicle stopped behind a bus.

In October 2010, two people were injured after their vehicle rear-ended a school bus carrying Straughn students.

The incident occurred on the afternoon bus route at the intersection of Airport Road and County Road 67.

The bus was stopped.

Covington County Schools Superintendent Shannon Driver said the system was not discussing purchasing cameras at this time.