ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) — Drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses continue to be a problem in Allen County and across the state. But one local district is hoping to deter drivers.
Northwest Allen County Schools welcomed seven new buses to their fleet. Each bus is equipped with several cameras located both inside and outside the bus that gives a 360-degree view. The cameras inside show all the seats including the driver and passengers. Outside the bus, a camera is pointed toward the front of the bus and the rear.
The district hopes the cameras will enhance safety all around.
“It’s every driver’s responsibility to pay attention,” Northwest Allen County Community Schools Chief Communication Officer Liztte Downey said. “It’s a yellow bus for a reason. It has lots of lights for a reason. The cameras help recognize and capture when there is a violation or a problem with cars passing when they shouldn’t be.”
Currently, when a vehicle illegally passes a stopped school bus with its cross arm and lights flashing, bus drivers write down the make, model of the car, the license plate if they are able to see it and when and where it happened. That information is then passed along to local law enforcement and the prosecuting attorney’s office. It is then up to the office to decide whether to take legal action against the vehicle driver.
When a vehicle illegally passes a bus outfitted with cameras, they are able to record the vehicle and get a clear view of the vehicle’s license.
All the footage from the cameras is stored on a hard drive located on the bus. When a vehicle crosses the stop arm, the footage can be taken from the bus and put in a computer and then sent digitally to the prosecuting attorney’s office.
The goal of the camera footage is to help prosecutors bring more stop-arm violators to justice.
“We have a very, very huge responsibility as a school bus driver to protect our kids on our buses, and that starts before they even get on,” NWACS Transportation and Operations Manager Natalie Hoffman said. “So educating the public and having these stop-arm cameras, I think, will help take us a step further in the right direction as far as enforcement.”
In the upcoming years, NWACS is working to make all the footage digital, so when a violation happens, the bus driver can call into the office and the footage can be clipped on the spot.
The district currently has more than 80 buses. As school buses hit the 12-year mark, they will be replaced with the buses that are already equipped with cameras. New buses will be scattered throughout the district and given to drivers whose buses have hit the 12-year mark.
The announcement came after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced that more than 200 law enforcement agencies will conduct extra patrols to safeguard students as they get on and off the bus this school year. This is in an effort to limit the number of stop-arm violations and motorists driving dangerously.