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55b81a6c40a4b Diagram from REI of how the stop arm camera solution works
Diagram from REI of how the stop arm camera solution works

Bellevue Public Schools Transportation Department Teams up with Bellevue Police & REI for School Bus Stop Arm Violations

 

While school buses are statistically proven to be the safest mode of transportation for getting school age children back and forth to school, the trip can be extremely stressful for the bus driver. “The primary source of that stress can be attributed an alarming number of heart-stopping near misses involving motorists passing their school buses while stopped with their red warning lights flashing and stop arm extended,” according to Rich Casey, Bellevue Public Schools Transportation Director.  

During the last school year Bellevue Public Schools’ bus drivers documented 163 cases of motorists ignoring the flashing red lights and stop arm while students were either loading or unloading. This number represents just a fraction of the actual violations because many times the driver is focused on monitoring the loading and unloading and is unable to capture the required information to make the report. Nationally, it is estimated that three million drivers illegally pass a school bus while loading and unloading students every year.

In the past, when a Bellevue Public Schools’ bus driver was able to capture the required information to make a report on a stop arm violation, it was forwarded to the Bellevue Police Department who would investigate the violation and, if appropriate, address it with the violator. Unfortunately, because the violation wasn’t observed by the police officer, a citation wasn’t issued.  

However, thanks to today’s technology, all of that will soon be changing. For the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year, 10 of Bellevue’s 78 school buses will be equipped with stop arm cameras. With 8 cameras on each bus, every violation will be captured from various angles with amazing clarity. The camera systems on the buses, manufactured and installed by Radio Engineering Industries, Inc. (REI), an Omaha based company, are designed specifically for the school bus application and have numerous parameters built into them to ensure every violation is valid and fully documented. These cameras are able to capture images from three different angles, both the front and rear license plate and, in many cases, the driver of the vehicle. One of the best features of the camera system is that it is totally automated, allowing the driver to focus on student safety instead of trying to capture license plates numbers.

As these 10 buses return to the Transportation Center after each route, violations are automatically downloaded to the Transportation Director’s computer. After violations are reviewed and confirmed by the director, a designated Bellevue Police Officer then reviews the video. If both parties are in agreement that the violation is legitimate, a citation may then be issued by the police officer to the operator of the vehicle. The current penalty for a stop arm violation is a fine of $500 and three points assigned against the violator’s license.

During monthly safety meetings drivers sometimes share recent violations that they witnessed. “If it wasn’t so serious it would almost be comical at how different motorists handle a bus stopped with its stop arm deployed,” said Casey. “Sometimes drivers assume they only have to stop momentarily and then they can proceed through the stop arm. Other times drivers drive slowly and look at the bus driver as if to say “is this what I am suppose to do?”

As schools gear up for another year it is important that motorists understand the law regarding actions to take when approaching a stopped school bus. Nebraska law states “Upon meeting or overtaking, from the front or rear, any school bus on which the yellow warning lights are flashing, the driver of a motor vehicle shall reduce the speed of such vehicle to not more than twenty-five miles per hour, shall bring the vehicle to a complete stop when the school bus is stopped, the stop arm is extended, and the flashing red lights are turned on, and shall remain stopped until the flashing red lights are turned off, the stop arm is retracted, and the school bus resumes motion.” It is important to note that if approaching a school bus in the opposite direction, when separated by a divided highway, motorists are not required to stop.

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