A campaign at Anderson School District Five in South Carolina is targeting illegal school bus passers and educating the community on existing state law, while aiming to amend the law to allow video-surveillance solutions for enforcement.
The Stop Arm Violation Education-Enforcement pilot program, or S.A.V.E., was created by David Poag, the district's operations and routing supervisor, and Darryl Webb, Anderson's director of transportation, to address the "blatant" illegal passing violations that occur each school day. Poag said the district hadn't seen anything being done on the local level to address the issue.
He added that 14 students have been killed and 26 injured in illegal passing incidents over the past four decades.
"That's 40 too many," Poag told STN.
The mission of S.A.V.E. is to enlist the public in helping to reduce the number of illegal passes by educating motorists on the law and to consequently increase safety at and around school bus stops. The S.A.V.E. website displays photos of demo projects with video-surveillance providers AngelTrax and Zentinel that capture the license plates of illegal passers, as well as links to current South Carolina law and other state laws along with safety tips for students and motorists alike. The goal is to amend state law to allow the video to be used in court to proscecute offenders.
State Sen. Thomas Alexander did propose bill S.718 in May that would allow video evidence of an illegal passing to be used in civil proceedings. But that bill has yet to move out of committee. In the absence of such a law, Poag said local law enforcement has told the district that officers can only issue citations when they witness the violation taking place.
"It's nearly impossible to capture the driver's facial features in a video. That's why South Carolina needs to follow in the footsteps of Georgia and change the law to allow civil citations to be issued to drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus," Poag added. "We need to hit them where it hurts ... their pockets. In my opinion, South Carolina should use the monies collected from the fines to pay for the cameras on the buses, and to create advertising campaigns throughout the state to bring awareness to the dangers of illegally passing a stopped school bus."
So far, Poag said the reaction of the public to S.A.V.E. has been "warm and fuzzy to my knowledge" and that he has yet to hear a valid argument against using the cameras to issue civil penalties.
"This is not a money-maker. This is about keeping our precious cargo safe when they enter and exit the bus," he said.
Poag said bus drivers are also using the Steffi Crosser, a reflective glove invented by a New York school bus driver, to increase visibility to students for when to cross to or from the bus stop.
The district is located about 125 miles northeast of Atlanta.