Illegal school bus passing is a problem that is plaguing—and being condemned by—families, school district staff and law enforcement across many districts. During the virtual Bus Technology Summit, REI shared how it provides end-to-end stop-arm camera solutions and works with authorities to get lawbreakers prosecuted.
A major goal of REI’s solutions is to increase motorist awareness of the laws they must follow to decrease illegal passing, said Jeff Nielsen, vice president of product management for Verra Mobility, an REI partner. In a Monday virtual session, he revealed that over 99 percent of offenders ticketed through the REI system do not make the same mistake.
“Getting that awareness out is most critical,” Neilson emphasized.
Even for districts in states without stop-arm camera laws, there are options to help, said Drew Batten, sales manager for REI. He stressed that the company’s solutions help with enforcing as well as with education, which is just as important.
Joel Stutheit, assistant director at Bethel School District in Washington state, shared with attendees an illegal passing incident that happened in his district and made national news, leading him to seek REI’s solutions. Verra Mobility helps run the system, so district staff does not have to.
Community involvement is important, Stutheit recommended. He explained that the district began by executing trial runs of the stop-arm camera system that only resulted in warnings to illegal passers.
Bethel School District also works closely with local law enforcement, a practice that has resulted in benefits for it and other districts who do the same.
Jason Norton, vice president of sales for Verra Mobility, related an incident in which stop-arm cameras were used by law enforcement to investigate a shooting incident that did not directly involve the school bus.
“Our cameras have made it much easier to get [citations] issued for drivers. The video gets it done,” stated Transportation Director Char Timothy of Minot Public Schools in North Dakota.
Even with COVID-19 resulting in less school bus traffic, School Transportation News Publisher Tony Corpin noted that the trend has regrettably not come with a decrease in traffic law violations. A seven-year-old girl was recently killed by a teenager who ran a school bus stop-arm.
In response to an attendee question, Nielsen confirmed that cameras can monitor up to eight lanes of traffic at a time. Norton said that videos are saved and Verra can send requested clips to districts. He stated that it depends on the state and the program, but fines collected through the program can go toward public safety, school districts, and more.
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REI not only offers thoroughly tested and durable hardware, but a robust software to match, explained Territory Manager Taylor Moore in a Monday Product Showcase. The new ARMOR suite allows live view of GPS as well as live views into the school bus. It’s a cloud-based system that allows rapid sharing of crucial data to the transportation management who need it.
Moore related a situation in which a broken-down bus incident pushed an Iowa district to look into ARMOR for remote access to GPS data for locating such buses in the future.
“At REI, we’re always evolving to meet the student transportation industry’s needs,” stated Territory Manager Ron Deming. REI’s 360-degree view system reduces risk by enabling camera views all around the bus to reduce both major and minor bus crashes.
REI’s customer support is available even during off hours to meet the needs of time-sensitive transportation matters. Integration with other bus technology—such as Kajeet and Cradlepoint Wi-Fi solutions, Mobile Eye video cameras, Verra Mobility management systems, and more—is also offered for a smooth experience for transportation staff.
REI listens to its customers, as attested to by Charlie Ott, transportation director for Fremont Unified School District in California. The company added a wide-angle video view, a feature often requested by school districts as they wanted to be able to see into bus seats.