Thirteen may be considered an unlucky number, but not in the case of a pilot program at Canyons School District in Utah. There, transportation officials in February equipped a spare bus with a 13-video-camera system for student safety, including a camera to catch motorists who illegally pass school buses during loading and unloading of students at bus stops.
Bryce Fuller, transportation support technician at Canyons SD who is managing the pilot, said he requested the high number of cameras from Gatekeeper Systems, which offers digital video cameras and license plate capture, among other products and services. He noted that the company had not previously received such a request.
“It was my personal preference. The way the backs of the seats on the bus are getting taller; a full camera system makes it easier to see things on the bus,” he said.
Fuller said he expects to soon equip a second spare bus with another 13 cameras from Fortress Mobile, which offers internal cameras and stop-arm cameras. He chose spare buses because they are assigned to different drivers who drive different routes, enabling the school district to determine different high-violation areas.
Five of the 13 Gatekeeper cameras are encased in a box equipped on the exterior of the bus, below the stop arm. Three of those cameras take photos of the driver and vehicle, while the other two cameras take photos of the vehicle license plate. Additionally, two separate exterior cameras are installed on the passenger side of the bus. One camera aims backward and the other aims forward to record potential bullying incidents occurring at bus stops. “It’s a problem in certain areas,” Fuller said.
He added that a camera located in the windshield that aims straight up has helped with training drivers. “We’re basically recording everything that’s going around the bus, so the drivers can focus on doing their job,” he said.
The pilot presently has an open-ended date, but Fuller estimated this one, and the Fortress camera pilot, would end sometime in mid-May, toward the end of the school year. During that time, he and his drivers will look at the video at the end of each school day to count the number of illegal passings, and then collect all the data in the end to pass to law enforcement.
Fuller has already collected some interesting data on illegal passings since the pilot began. “Just on one bus, at one bus stop, we will have about 12 or 13 violators in one day, in one direction on the street,” he explained.
In addition to Canyons SD, the Alpine School District in Utah also is piloting a 13-video-camera Gatekeeper system, and Jordan School District will be piloting the same Fortress system. Fuller hopes this type of pilot will pique the interest of other school districts, and will help propel positive momentum toward supporting a bill that would allow school districts to equip their buses with video cameras.
“We’re hoping that if we get local law enforcement and other school districts on board, it’s going to help up on Capitol Hill to get the bill passed,” Fuller said.
Rep. Tim Cosgrove introduced the bill, HB 406, into the legislature in February. The bill was amended, but will be reintroduced into the legislature in the fall.