Tracking down drivers that fail to stop for school bus deliveries

Tracking down drivers that fail to stop for school bus deliveries

(Calif.) Districts would be authorized to equip school buses with video recording equipment aimed at scofflaw drivers failing to stop while students are present, under legislation pending before lawmakers.

Although the numbers of children injured in bus stop accidents is relatively few, state Sen. Anna Caballero, D-Salinas, said that even one is too many.

“The goal is to encourage drivers to stop in order to cut down the number of children stuck by violators of the school bus stop law,” she said in a statement. “The fact that children today are struck by drivers who do not follow the law indicates that more needs to be done to enforce the law and keep children safe.”

Current law requires a school bus driver to display flashing red lights and a stop signal arm when students are either loading or unloading. The law also requires drivers approaching the bus from either direction to also stop until the children have boarded or are safely away and the bus driver has deactivated the warning signals.

Caballero’s SB 371 would give districts permission to install and operate an automated video system that would record drivers that were not obeying the school bus stop law. Districts would also be able to add another message to the warning sign:

“Stop when lights are flashing—it’s the law. Video enforced stop.”

Under the bill, the recording would be limited to elements needed to identify the car—the vehicle make and model as well as the license plate. Use of the system to capture the image of the driver is prohibited.

Recordings of violators would be turned over to law enforcement for issuing citations. Currently, bus drivers can report the same information to police.

Caballero offered a similar bill last year but it died in committee—perhaps because her colleagues didn’t see the overall need for the law.

While there is some evidence to suggest that drivers too often ignore the bus stop sign, those incidents do not result very often in injuries to kids.

A 2017 survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, found that there were as many as 21,000 violations of the law in California, every day. That said, however, the California Highway Patrol reported that during the past ten years that school-transportation related accidents resulted in only 16 injuries and no fatalities.

In addition, legislative staff raised a number of other questions about the bill.

One is that if SB 371 becomes law, there is likely to be many more citations issues and likely many of them to drivers that cannot pay. Staff noted that conviction of a first violation costs a minimum of $746 and a maximum of $1,156.

This alone “runs counter to the Legislature’s recent efforts to recognize the disproportionate financial impact of the justice system on people of modest means,” staff reported.

Also, the number of violations suggests that drivers are unaware of the law, as opposed to simply ignoring it. Staff pointed out that the warning signs are now limited to the back of the school bus and thus, driver approaching from in front may not see the signs or the flashing lights.

Staff has suggested that lawmakers might first consider requiring buses to have signage in the front of the bus before looking to other means of enforcement.

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