Advancements in technology are often met with reluctance and rejection when utilized in the public sector.
One debate currently centers on the use of stop-arm cameras by school districts to capture violators who illegally pass buses when dropping off students.
School districts nationwide regularly seek out new technology and apply it to ensure that children are kept safe. To guarantee this security is a cornerstone of well-managed school system.
However, the case for providing stop-arm cameras on the yellow buses is not always clear-cut. “It’s difficult to change driver’s behavior,” said Charles Territo, senior vice president of communications for American Traffic Solutions (ATS).
ATS manufactures traffic safety, mobility and compliance solutions for state and local governments, commercial fleets and rental car companies.
One such solution ATS provides is the CrossingGuard School Bus Stop Arm Enforcement System, an automated platform that uses high-resolution cameras that capture images and video of vehicles that pass the stop-arm illegally.
People can often have the tendency of being stuck in their ways. When considering stop-arm camera technology, school districts can tackle this stubbornness with “transparency,” as Territo put it.
When discussing the plans with the public, school districts need to be “transparent about the process, about enforcement, about how the technology works, about the goals,” said Territo.
The ultimate goal for bringing in the stop-arm camera technology is to safeguard the wellbeing of each student that rides the yellow bus, and, as Territo stated, “School bus stop-arm running occurs far too often.”
The technology is simple. A sensor is activated once the stop-arm is deployed so that the school bus driver can maintain attention on the children under his or her care. The camera captures the necessary elements—driver identity, vehicle description, location details—to provide law enforcement “indisputable evidence” of illegal activity. The data is stored on hard drivers located on each school bus along with being transferred to secure ATS processing centers.
“The system turns video from school bus stop-arm cameras into prosecutable violations,” said Territo.
The only concerns voiced by the public, Territo noticed, have dealt with the cost of installing the system. For others, though, the incentive for companies to push stop-arm cameras onto districts is more monetary, as opposed to protecting students.
“Stop-arm cameras are about money, not safety, period,” said James Walker, a member of the National Motorists Association (NMA).
According to the NMA, a Wisconsin-based organization aimed at protecting drivers’ rights, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics show that a majority to student-related deaths is not due to vehicles illegally passing school buses, it’s due to the buses themselves.
But, the stop-arm camera “companies could not make any real money with systems to stop school bus drivers from running over children,” said Walker.
The NHTSA statistics, Walker detailed, prove that the chances of a school district preventing child-pedestrian fatalities with stop-arm cameras are almost nil. Instead, vendors are pushing stop-arm cameras to make up for lost revenue from red light camera contract cancelations.
“I don't think you could ever get a school district to openly admit that their real goal was money, but money will be the only practical result of installing the cameras in most cases,” said Walker.
Territo believed this line of criticism is “hollow.” He added that 30 districts around the country have started operating the ATS system, which also creates red light camera systems.
“There is no pushback from the public. This isn’t about revenue generation, this is about safety, and there would be no revenue generated if no one ran stop-arms,” said Territo.
Territo recalled one story a driver shared about manually recording 32 instances of vehicles illegally passing buses with its stop arm deployed. The driver turned over the infractions to the police. Only one violation was issued for the infraction.
“Whether it’s parents, grandparents, teachers, principals or drivers, they can all agree that enforcing the law is essential to keeping kids safe,” said Territo.