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2019-05-15 / Front Page

School Bus Cameras: Stop Arm Law Eases Prosecution

By Lillian Browne


Each of the large school buses in the Walton Central School District have interior, forward-facing cameras installed on the windshield. Lillian Browne/The Reporter Each of the large school buses in the Walton Central School District have interior, forward-facing cameras installed on the windshield. Lillian Browne/The Reporter DELHI - Last week, New York’s legislature reached an agreement on a proposed bill which will make it easier to prosecute drivers who pass stopped school buses.

Nationally, passing a stopped school bus is a widespread problem and in Delaware County there is no exception.

As part of the new law, expected to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo in the coming weeks, ve hicles caught on camera will be fined $250 with the money split between the municipality and the school district.

The law would allow school districts to mount cameras on the stop-arms of buses, which extend when discharging or loading student.

Many Delaware County school district have been using interior and exterior cameras on school buses for more than a decade. Among those districts is Delaware Academy at Delhi, where Transportation Supervisor Greg Verspoor, who has been with the district since 2006, has been using cameras on his fleet for more than 13 years.


Delaware Academy at Delhi Transportation Supervisor Greg Verspoor points to a rear-facing camera which is installed on all of the districts large school buses. Lillian Browne/The Reporter Delaware Academy at Delhi Transportation Supervisor Greg Verspoor points to a rear-facing camera which is installed on all of the districts large school buses. Lillian Browne/The Reporter Delaware Academy at Delhi Central School District

The Delhi school district began using interior cameras in its fleet as a management tool, which Verspoor said was initially met with some resistance from the school bus drivers. Early on, he said, the drivers realized the cameras could capture student behavior incidents that escaped the driver’s attention because they were focused on the road.

The interior cameras, Verspoor said, are for everyone’s safety.

The Delhi fleet is also outfitted with “dash cams” positioned to capture oncoming traffic through the bus’s windshield.

Delhi has also outfitted its passenger buses with exterior cameras on the driver’s side of the bus, which capture video of vehicles and license plates in the oncoming lane of traffic once they have begun to pass the school bus.

The video camera software is programmed to textually report functionability of the cameras, when the bus is slowing down and the amber flashing lights are engaged and when the bus’s red lights are flashing, the stoparm extended and the bus has stopped to discharge or load a student. All video is also timestamped and the cameras are programmed to engage from the moment the driver starts the ignition.

With the passage of the new law, the district will be able to capture still photos from the video, to submit to police agencies for prosecution of motorists who pass a stopped school bus, without the need of the bus driver providing a separate written, sworn statement to police.

Camera technology has evolved to allow for driver recognition, Verspoor said.

Motorists passing stopped school buses continue to plague the Delhi district. It doesn’t happen daily, but it sometimes does happen several times a week.

Elm Street in the village of Delhi sees the highest number of offenders, Verspoor said.

Walton Central School District

Walton Central School Transportation Supervisor Tracey Williams reports that his fleet of 21 buses are also outfitted with between one and three interior cameras and dash cams. The district has been using cameras for approximately 20 years, Williams said.

The district does not currently outfit its fleet with stop arm cameras, he said. Use of exterior cameras has been problematic, he said, because of rain, snow and dirt. It’s especially tough in the winter months, he said, by virtue of weather conditions, including slush, snow and salt spray.

Interior cameras provide video evidence of incidents, including those that occur inside the school bus. A driver usually sees “the second thing,” Williams said - the student retaliating or defending him or herself. The cameras provide an accounting of the whole incident.

The cameras, Williams continued, are used to keep students safe. But, he said, student, parent and motorist education is key to prevention.

School bus drivers can be distracted by unruly students on the bus and because of that, the district conducts school bus safety days each school year.

Most accidents involving school buses, Williams said, occur on sunny, clear days. In suspect weather, a motorist is already on high alert for potentially dangerous driving conditions.

“Any time you see a stopped school bus, expect there to be kids around it,” Williams cautions motorists. Those kids are either getting on or off the bus.

Though two major thoroughfares, state Routes 206 and 10 are in the Walton School District, there are few reports of a motorist passing a stopped school bus on those routes. Instead, Williams said, most offenses occur on the school’s two campuses - in the parking lots.

Whenever red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, a motorist is required to stop, regardless of where the bus is, Williams said.

Downsville Central School District

Downsville Central School District Transportation Supervisor Gerry Ormandy said his district started installing cameras on buses in 2010. Downsville’s fleet of 13 school buses are outfitted with interior cameras.

In his district, Ormandy reported, Knox Avenue has the highest number of incidents of motorists passing stopped school buses.

Mondays and Fridays seem to be the days of the week in which the most number of offenses occur, Ormandy said.

He attributes that to motorists rushing to reach a destination on Monday mornings and likely distracted, looking forward to weekend plans on Fridays.

The transportation supervisors from all three district have been advocating and lobbying for the passage of the stop arm law for the past eight years as members of the New York State Association of Pupil Transportation.

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