New Law Allows Better Enforcement of Traffic Safety with School Bus Cameras
A new South Carolina law allows police to better enforce traffic safety laws, and ticket drivers who illegally pass school buses when the “Stop” arm is out, by using the built-in school bus cameras.
According to a WIS investigation, in one single day of the 2012-2013 school year, there were 560 traffic safety violations involving drivers illegally passing school buses. This practice has led to several pedestrian accidents and even fatalities when children get hit by cars.
The law was signed in June and as of August has officially gone into effect. Law enforcement officers can review security video from school buses for traffic safety violations, where previously, officers had to rely on witness reporting, unless a pedestrian or other driver was injured or killed.
Sen. Thomas Alexander, R-Walhalla, helped push the bill through the state legislature to Governor Nikki Haley’s desk. The measure stalled in a subcommittee until mid-May, when a car struck a 15-year-old Gaffney High School student as she crossed the street to her bus. Alexander distributed photos of the crime scene to his colleagues to emphasize the disastrous consequences if they did not act.
“My goal is to have better compliance,” said Alexander, R-Walhalla, who introduced the measure in May 2013. “It’s not about the tickets but the safety of the children.”
Alexander’s bill simply makes traffic safety around school buses more enforceable, and does not change the penalties for violating school bus traffic safety, which are steep. There is a minimum fee of $500 for school bus traffic safety violations, plus six points off the driver’s license for the first misdemeanor conviction; additional convictions raise the fee to $2,000. Misdemeanor becomes felony in the event of an injury.
Officials say that school bus traffic safety violations are mainly due to inattentiveness – looking at cell phones or distracted in other ways.
“We support law enforcement cracking down on aggressive drivers and keeping our children safer,” said education spokesman Dino Teppara.
The Department of Public Safety scheduled a news conference for Thursday, just ahead of the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Meanwhile, school districts are installing exterior cameras on random buses on a pilot basis, to determine which camera system works the best.
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