A measure to increase school bus safety

NJ.com Masthead


Paul and Sue Oberhauser, NJ.com


This week is National School Bus Safety Week, which is a reminder we need to keep kids safe when riding to school. A national survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services showed an estimated 14 million drivers illegally pass stopped school buses each year. On the day of the survey in 2014, 1,483 drivers passed buses on the right side – between where children get on and off the bus and the sidewalk.

That is why the General Assembly should pass S503, bipartisan legislation introduced by Sens. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean) and Jim Whelan (D-Atlantic) permitting school districts to use safety cameras to catch and hold accountable drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus. Bus drivers often struggle to catch the license plate numbers of drivers zooming past. The video systems capture the evidence and local law enforcement reviews the footage to decide whether to issue a citation.

Impatient drivers put New Jersey school children at risk and the N.J. Assembly can do something about it. Thirteen states already use school bus safety cameras, which have reduced violations by nearly 30 percent in some districts in just one year. New Jersey should be the 14th.

Paul and Sue Oberhauser are national co-chairs of the Traffic Safety Coalition.

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Several cars blow past school bus stop sign including police vehicle

Source: http://www.wowktv.com/story/30024586/several-cars-blow-past-school-bus-stop-sign-including-police-vehicle

By Staff


A police vehicle appears to be just one of the many cars that blew past a school bus stop sign, despite the arm being extended and the lights flashing.

Bus 1122 had the lights ran by several cars in Kanawha City within two minutes, according to Brette Farley, Executive Director of Transportation for Kanawha County Schools.

Cameras on the school bus also captured what appears to be a police vehicle bypassing the stop arm. Bus surveillance also caught students almost being hit by traffic as they were passing in front of the bus.

This isn’t the first incident of cars blowing past a school bus with the stop arm extended or pedestrians nearly being hit.

During the week of August 23, a driver failed to slow down for the amber lights in the Chelyan area and actually hit the stop arm as it was extending. That same week there was an incident caught on bus surveillance video in front of Point Harmony Elementary in Cross Lanes, WV. The bus wasn’t picking up students so the stop arm wasn’t out. But surveillance cameras caught someone passing in the turn lane nearly striking several people.

Related Story: School bus stop arm struck by passing motorist in Chelyan, WV

On August 17, a school bus camera captured the moment a driver blew past, just as a father and his children were crossing the street.

VIDEO: Driver blows past school bus stop sign as father helps child across the street

In all of the situations, the school bus had been outfitted with a stop sign extender. The device is an attempt to make the stop signs on school buses more noticeable to drivers and prevent cars from blowing past.

Related Story: Creator of school bus stop sign arm shares story

After reading comments on WOWK13 News Facebook page, 13News reporter Chelsea Spears worked to find answers. Check out her report here.

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School Bus Passing Problems Persist

Source:  http://www.wsaz.com/news/headlines/School-Bus-Passing-Problems-Persist-327544331.html

By Cathleen Moxley


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) — The problem of drivers illegally passing school buses doesn’t appear to be getting better. In fact, some school bus drivers say it’s getting worse.

Video released Monday from last week shows cars whizzing past a school bus as it drops off children.

One of the vehicles caught on camera was a police cruiser.

The video is being handed over to Charleston Police to investigate what agency the police cruiser is with.

Like many other videos WSAZ has shown this school year, this one was captured in the Kanawha City area of Charleston.

The entire time she’s driving her school bus, Terri Byrd is hoping that nobody hits one of her students as they cross the road.

“I lay on my horn and I have stuck my head out the window yelling at people to get them to stop,” Byrd said.

That’s because the flashing red lights and stop sign don’t seem to be enough especially on her route, MacCorkle Avenue in Kanawha City, which is four lanes.

In West Virginia, the law requires drivers to stop for school buses on all roads except interstates. That includes MacCorkle Avenue.

“Up until a couple of years ago, I didn’t know that you had to stop on a divided highway,” Betty Fluharty from Charleston said.

When she stopped for a bus last week, it made for a close call when the driver behind her nearly hit her.

“He barely got stopped before he hit me. At that point, he laid on his horn, like ‘what are you doing, lady?’ I rolled my window down and started pointing ‘school bus, school bus.’ He just kept blowing his horn, and then he went out and around me,” Fluharty said. “He could have very easily hit a child.”

School bus cameras can usually catch license plate numbers, but the owner of the vehicle can’t be charged on that alone. That doesn’t mean the driver is off scot-free.

“An officer can go to that residence, talk to the owner and find out who was driving the vehicle,” Kanawha County Prosecutor Chuck Miller said. “It just requires some investigation.”

Transportation officials plan to ask lawmakers to beef up the law during the next legislative session, so that the owner of the vehicle can be charged based on the license plate alone.

Miller says that could subject the owner to a substantial fine, and even jail time, for something they may not have done.

He says it’s not like running a toll booth that catches your license plate on camera. Miller says illegally passing a school bus is a crime, and is much more serious.

In the meantime, bus drivers like Byrd have a simple request for anyone behind the wheel.

“We’re hauling, or carrying, the world’s most precious cargo. We’re hauling your children. And our job is to get them to and from school safely, and when you see red flashing lights, stop,” Byrd said.

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Citations from Youngstown speed cameras drop; drivers getting message, authorities say

Source:  http://www.vindy.com/news/2015/sep/12/citations-via-speed-cameras-slow-down/

By David Skolnick, Vindy.com


YOUNGSTOWN–Motorists on city highways and in school zones apparently are getting the message to obey the speed limit – or at least to keep their speed to a reasonable level above the limit.

Between Sept. 4 and Friday, about 300 speeding citations were issued, down from about 700 during the prior seven days.

“They’ve slowed down considerably out there,” Police Chief Robin Lees. “We’re getting compliance, and people are slowing down.”

Lees said coverage by The Vindicator of the city’s use of speed guns likely played a factor in slowing down motorists.

Mayor John A. McNally – who recently spent 45 minutes a day Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday driving Interstate 680 – said, “Traffic is remarkably slower in the past few days. I see people slowing down, and that’s the goal.”

I-680 between South Avenue and Meridian Road, where the limit is 50 mph, is where the speed guns primarily are being used.

The hand-held radar guns with cameras take pictures of vehicles to catch speeders. Since the department began using radar guns Aug. 18, after a monthlong warning period, the focus also has been on state Route 711, which has a 55 mph speed limit, and in school zones.

The cameras also were used to a lesser extent in a 40 mph construction zone on the Himrod Expressway.

The new system allows police officers to point the radar guns at cars and have civil-fee citations issued rather than stopping speeders and giving them moving-violation tickets with a fine and points on their driving records.

The city issued 960 speeding tickets all of last year. The citations issued in the last two weeks exceeded that figure.

Lees had said Aug. 27 the department had issued about 1,000 citations since the system went live Aug. 18 after a 30-day warning period.

But that turned out to be incorrect.

Lt. William Ross, head of the police department’s traffic unit, said that was the total number of citations and warnings given to motorists.

Lees said Friday he didn’t realize the original numbers included warnings, but now said he was mistaken.

City officials tried Friday to contact Optotraffic of Lanham, Md., which is processing the tickets and keeping 35 percent of the fees, to get a breakdown of citations and warnings, but were unable to get that. The breakdown is expected early next week, city officials said.

Optotraffic mailed citations and warnings to 472 motorists this week. Of those 472, 340 were citations with the others being warnings.

Also, not every vehicle cited for speeding will receive citation notices, Ross said.

That’s because some of the photos taken won’t be clear enough to make out the license plate, and earlier photos were taken of oncoming traffic, so those without front license plates, such as motorcycles and Pennsylvania vehicles, can’t be traced, he said.

The data of the 472 citations and tickets provide insight into how much leeway police are giving speeders.

Along the I-680 stretch with the 50-mph limit, the slowest speed to get a citation was 62 mph with 74 mph being the fastest speed.

In school zones with 20-mph limits, the slowest speed to get a citation was 30 mph with 40 mph being the fastest.

Police also issued seven citations to those driving in a 40 mph construction zone on the Himrod Expressway. The slowest speed to get a citation was 51 mph with 53 mph being the fastest speed.

There are no data yet for those driving on state Route 711, one of the hot spots where police are using the radar guns.

Speeders face civil penalties – $100 for those driving up to 13 mph over the speed limit, $125 for 14 to 19 mph over the limit, and $150 for those driving at least 20 mph over the limit.

The city said it was using the cameras on I-680 and 711 because many accidents occur on those highways.

In recent years, there were more accidents and more-severe accidents on I-680 than on the Austintown section of Interstate 80, where there is more traffic, according to data compiled by the Eastgate Regional Council of Governments.

In 2012 and 2013 combined, there were 280 total accidents and 84 serious ones – including four fatalities – on I-680 compared with 176 total accidents and 52 serious ones with one fatality on I-80, the Eastgate data show.

For Route 711, there were 62 total accidents for 2012 and 2013 with 15 of them serious and no fatalities.

Meanwhile, the city recently started using the cameras on Cooper Street, an exit off I-680 on the city’s South Side. The speed limit there is 25 mph, but several motorists drive much faster, Lees and McNally said.

The mayor said the city wants to use the speed cameras soon in residential neighborhoods.

“We will be expanding based on residents’ complaints to areas where we have a definite [speeding] problem,” McNally said.

For now, police are focused on I-680, Lees said.

The city is discussing getting a fourth radar gun from Optotraffic that would allow them to use the three they have with more regularity, Ross said.

Police are using two and keeping one in reserve, but Ross said there have been a few times when all three were used.

McNally said the board of control, of which he is chairman, is expected Thursday to select a hearing officer to listen to appeals from those objecting to the citations.

Sometime in November is likely when the appeals officer will start to hear objections, McNally and Ross said.

– See more at: http://www.vindy.com/news/2015/sep/12/citations-via-speed-cameras-slow-down/#sthash.lMRf2o5P.dpuf

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Red light and speed cameras: A focus on new numbers

Source: http://www.tucsonnewsnow.com/story/30006021/red-light-and-speed-cameras-a-focus-on-new-numbers

By Bud Foster


The Tucson Police Department released new numbers to the Tucson City Council, which show that between 2006 and 2015, accidents have decreased by 70 percent in intersections with red light cameras. But opponents say those figures do not tell the whole story.

“That may be a truthful number but not necessarily scientifically correct,” said Mark Spear, an engineer who has opposed the cameras for years. “It’s very empirical.”

Tucson’s Police Chief Roberto Villaseñor presented the report to the council, which is currently gathering information ahead of a vote on Proposition 201 that is scheduled for November’s general election ballot.

A yes vote would rid the city of the cameras.

Read the PowerPoint presented to the council HERE: http://tucsonne.ws/1K0R1VQ

Pima County supervisors voted to remove dozens of speed cameras two years ago citing public concerns and lack of revenue generation. The council cannot advocate one way or another for the ballot measure, but it stepped up close to the line. The presentation gave council members information and numbers they can use in an “educational campaign.”

According to Villaseñor, there were 188 accidents at the eight intersections included in the data in 2006, but that fell to 57 in 2015.

He said he believes the decrease is because of the red light cameras, and that the evidence shows this. Villaseñor also told the council that after expenses, the cameras generate $1.7 million profit for the general fund, which brings up the argument that the cameras are more of a revenue generator than they are a safety factor.

There is likely little doubt it does lower accident rates to a certain degree, but how much, and whether it’s worth the cost of the cameras and community complaints, is up for debate.

“The way I put it,” Spear said about the chief’s presentation, “He’s being misled by the data.”

Spear said the numbers being presented are not “untruthful, it’s just that they are not academically sound.”

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7 stop-arm violations in 14 school days

Source:  http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/2230453.html

By Hanna Russman, Daily Reporter


It is the worse start to a school year that Spencer Schools Transportation Director Julie Nemmers can remember in terms of school bus safety. Since school started Aug. 24, seven stop-arm violations have been reported and recorded by Spencer school bus drivers and their bus cameras.

“Thank heavens we have the cameras in all of our buses,” Nemmers said. “When a bus driver witnesses a violation we can download the video and can see it happen. We take a snapshot of the driver and their car and report it to law enforcement. They also watch the video and then issue a citation to the owner of the vehicle.”

According to Nemmers, the videos from the school bus camera shows distracted driving as a major factor. The stop-arm violators so far have been men and women of varying ages.

“We can see when they are texting or making a call in the video,” Nemmers explained. “Other violators treat the stop arm like a stop sign where they stop or slow down and then continue past the bus if they think it is clear to go.”

“Most of the time these cars don’t even stop,” Spencer Police Chief Mark Warburton said. “Or, they don’t realize their mistake until it is too late. People are trying to do as much as they can during their mundane everyday drives to work which is causing people to be distracted. Driving needs to be made the priority when you are in a vehicle. Driving is not a time to multitask.”

Drivers are encouraged to be on the lookout for busses now that the school year is in full swing. They should be aware of their responsibilities when they encounter one of the long-yellow vehicles that may be dropping off or picking up children.

“School bus drivers must put on their yellow flashers 300 feet before they stop to signal to drivers they will be stopping,” Nemmers explained. “The red flashing light goes on when the bus is stopped and the stop arm, that flashing stop sign on the side of the bus, goes out. Drivers behind the bus must stop and can’t go around the bus while the stop arm is out. Drivers approaching the bus from the opposite direction must stop and cannot continue until the stop arm is retracted. A violation occurs when drivers pass a bus when the stop arm is out.”

Those who are cited for a stop-arm violation face severe penalties under Kadyn’s Law.

“Kadyn’s Law was named after Kadyn Halverson who was running to get onto her bus on a county highway that ran past her house and was killed when she was hit by a driver who failed to stop for the bus,” Iowa State Trooper Vince Kurtz, ISP safety education officer, said. “Kadyn’s Law enhanced the penalties for violators of the stop arm law.”

Kurtz explained a first-time offender of the law faces a fine of up to $750, 30 days suspended license and the possibility of 30 days in jail.

“These are very serious violations, and they come with serious consequences,” Kurtz said. “Most people don’t realize how important the stop-arm law is until it is too late, And by too late, I mean after a child is hit, injured or even killed. We are fortunate that there haven’t been more Kadyn Halverson incidents in Iowa, but it is only a matter of time.”

The Spencer School District has been fortunate to not have had any accidents as a result of stop-arm violations this year or in the past, but it can only last so long.

“Our luck is going to run out one of these days,” Nemmers said. “We have had a few close calls, but our bus drivers are doing their best to keep kids safe. My fear is that someone will go through a stop arm and hit, injure or kill a student. Our students safety is my top priority, and that is what I am working to do.”

According to Amy Sievers, driver’s license supervisor with the Iowa DOT, bus safety is an emphasized component of driver’s education.

“The teenagers should be more aware of the school bus laws because we do a lot with it in driver’s ed,” Sievers said. “I come in and talk about the consequences of violating the stop-arm law. I am at a loss though on what more we can do to stop these violations. It is not just teens who are violators. We need to reach the adults too.”

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Drivers who pass stopped school buses hard to convict, Cumberland Co. officials say

Source:  http://wncn.com/2015/09/08/drivers-who-pass-stopped-school-buses-hard-to-convict-cumberland-co-officials-say/

By Nate Rodgers, WNCN.com


FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Cumberland County school buses captured eight vehicles passing a stopped bus on camera last year.

But transportation officials said current laws make it hard to convict violators of the offense.

“I had two buses last week that were hit, the stop arm was hit,” said Al Miller of Cumberland County Schools Transportation.

Miller said current laws require a law enforcement officer to see a vehicle pass a stopped school bus.

Video evidence can help but the driver’s face must be visible in the footage.

Miller said weather can interfere with how current camera systems work.

Two school buses in Cumberland County have three cameras each.

This first camera is intended to capture the license plate as the car rides past the stopped bus.

A second camera is aimed at the windshield and a final camera shoots through the passenger side window.

Currently, lawmakers are discussing a bill that would fine the owner of the car, after it’s caught on camera passing a stopped bus.

The drivers face would not have to be shown.

As for the eight violators already caught on video? It is up for the court to decide.

“We thought the cases were good but once the judge and attorneys get to them, I don’t know,” Miller said.

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