Gov. Pat Quinn signed a bill into law last month that allows school districts to implement traffic enforcement programs targeting motorists who illegally pass school buses as well as higher fines for those who are convicted.
Effective Jan. 1, 2014, school districts can partner with cities and counties in equipping school buses with the cameras, which would photograph vehicles and their license plate numbers if drivers fail to stop for a school bus with an extended stop arm while loading or unloading students. The video must remain confidential and be made available only to the alleged offender for review and to local government and law enforcement agencies for prosecution. Local municipalities must post on the Internet a list of the specific school districts that have school buses equipped with the automated traffic law enforcement systems, and school districts must post similar information on their individual websites. Signs must also be posted on each school bus equipped with video surveillance cameras.
The law also requires local municipalities to conduct data analysis of the safey impact afforded by the video capture.
Valid defenses against prosecution via camera include proof that the motorist received a ticket from a law enforcement officer within one-eighth of a mile and 15 minutes of the violation being recorded by the system; the motorist can prove the vehicle in question or license plates were stolen and not in his or her possession at the time of the recorded infraction; and that the school bus flashing lights and stop arm were damaged or not activated.
Motorists who are convicted face a $150 fine for the first offense and $500 for subsequent offenses. However, passing a school bus is not considered a moving violation, an offense that can result in a driver's license suspension of up to three months.
SB0923 was introduced in January by Sen. Tommy Munoz and passed the Senate and House in May. The bill went to Quinn's desk the following month but was not acted upon until Aug. 27.
"This is a safety mechanism," said Munoz at the time. "This would hopefully be a deterrent for someone going around the school bus."