Forty school buses in Fulton County, Georgia, began capturing video this week of motorists illegally passing at student stops. But stop-arm violators are granted a one-month reprieve before citations will be mailed.
Fulton County Schools surrounding Atlanta is partnering with American Traffic Solutions to equip certain routes with the CrossingGuard stop-arm technology that automatically detects if a vehicle passes when a bus is at a stop loading or unloading students.
“The system automatically detects if a vehicle passes the school bus when the bus arm is extended,” said ATS spokeswoman Kate Coulson. “A video of the violating vehicle passing the school bus extended stop arm is retained as evidence of the violation. Violation images extracted from the video capture a clear image of the vehicles license plate as it passes the stopped school bus. All footage and evidence is provided to the local issuing authority for a final determination.”
Fulton County Schools spokeswoman Susan Hale said the first phase of the project is surveilling specific areas across the 80-mile long district where the greatest number of stop-arm violations have been observed by bus drivers. The county is comprised of 13 cities and towns, each with their own law enforcement agency. So far seven of the municipalities have signed on to be a part of the enforcement program.
She added that the City of Roswell in the northern part of the county above Atlanta is where the cameras first started operating this week, and nearby Alpharetta and Milton also operate some of the 40 buses equipped with CrossingGuard. Meanwhile, other cities using the stop-arm cameras include College Park, East Point, Hapeville and Union City in the southern part of the county.
Overall, the district operates a total of 760 school buses and transports 79,000 pre-K through 12th-grade students each day.
“Our bus drivers deal with the frustration of motorists ignoring their school bus stop arm every day,” said R. Sam Ham, executive director of the school system’s Transportation Department. “We believe this new technology will ease their mind, protect the children that they are devoted to and create a greater awareness in the community about safe and legal driving practices.”
The AngelTrax bus video cameras started rolling on Feb. 8, and local law enforcement agencies will begin issuing citations on March 8, giving motorists time to educate themselves on the hazards of illegal passes. In addition to the threat of injury or worse to students who are crossing the street to and from their buses stops, Georgia state law prescribes a $300 fine for a first stop-arm violation, a $750 fine for a second and a $1,000 fine for a third that occurs within a five-year period.
Hale added that the school district will keep 40 percent of the revenue from fines during the first two years of the program and 50 percent in years three, four and five. The money will go to a school foundation that funds programs and initiatives that traditionally are not covered by the district budget, such as recognition programs, individual student health initiatives (for example, eyeglasses for needy students), specialized safety programs and professional development.
Meanwhile, Coulson said 60 percent of the fine revenue goes to ATS to cover the cost of the equipment, installation and managing the video and enforcement for the district, which bear no upfront costs.