A new bill introduced in the Texas Legislature aims to include school bus stop-arm video cameras in a ban of traffic signal photo enforcement systems.
H.B. 808 was pre-filed by state Rep. Pat Fallon on Tuesday to amend Chapter 707 of the state’s Transportation Code and prohibit school districts, intermediate educational agencies or other state and local government entities from implementing and operating stop-arm cameras. It would also prohibit the use of a recorded image to issue a citation.
Only toll road and law enforcement systems would be exempted.
“Stop-arm cameras work. I can't understand why anyone would try to politicize children's safety,” said Larry Duncan, president of the Dallas County Schools Board. “The cameras are proven deterrents for bad driver behavior. In Dallas alone, DCS has reduced the number of stop-arm violations by 35 percent. We will work vigorously to protect a child's right to travel safely to and from school.”
Dallas County Schools, which provides transportation services for 14 area school districts, has come under fire by state legislators for its own stop-arm enforcement program.
Austin ISD implemented a stop-arm camera enforcement system last February. Since then, Kris Hafezizadeh, the district's director of transportation, said about 11,000 citations have been issued to motorists for illegally passing stopped school buses.
“Stop arm cameras are another tool for districts to use to ensure the safety of our students while they are loading and unloading buses,” he told School Transportation News. “The technology aids to reduce the number of motorists passing school buses and has been very successful so far in alerting drivers that it is illegal to pass school buses when the stop-arm is up.”
But others see stop-arm cameras as a misuse of school bus safety funds, not to mention an an assault on personal freedom and on motorists' wallets. One of those is James Walker of the driver advocacy group National Motorists Association, the main opponent of both school bus stop-arm video enforcement and red-light cameras. Last fall, he pointed to a compilation of NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System data from 1999-2014 on fatalities of school-age pedestrians under 19 years old as a result of school transportation-related crashes. It shows that 71 percent of the pedestrian fatalities were a result of being hit by the school bus, while 29 percent were killed by passing vehicles.
“If stop-arm cameras were on every school bus nationwide, and if they could optimistically prevent half the fatalities by passing cars, it would take an average state about 28 years to prevent one fatality,” Walker told STN. “In the meantime, about two and a half times more of these child pedestrian fatalities would be caused by the bus drivers running over the kids they are paid to protect.”