Recent survey results indicate 41.8 million school bus stop-arm violations occur yearly in the U.S. Imagine the number of hours transportation departments must spend to detect, investigate and accurately report each. Without argument, it’s a figure school bus operations would like to see substantially reduced in the interest of student safety and time management.
To help lower this eye-opening number of stop-arm violations, a growing number of states are allowing school bus stop-arm camera solutions on bus exteriors. As a result, more transportation departments are integrating these innovative stop-arm solutions, along with surveillance camera systems and fleet management software into their operations.
“… added safety and security measures …”
One school realizing positive results from these advanced solutions is Okoboji Community School District. The Iowa district, located in a popular vacation spot, installed REI® stop-arm cameras and mobile video surveillance cameras on each of its 15 school buses in April of 2022. The systems were integrated with REI’s ARMOR™ Software Suite and hosted in the cloud to streamline the district’s fleet and surveillance management duties.
Steve Clayton, transportation director at Okoboji CSD, explains, “The systems were installed for added safety and security measures for our students and faculty. Up here, traffic is heavy, especially at the beginning of the school year and at the end because of the summer season.”
“… everything we wanted it to offer …”
Included in each of the district’s stop-arm systems is a rear-facing 720p/1080p wedge stop-arm camera for close-up views of violators’ license plates. A second high-definition camera faces forward and captures wide exterior views of the vehicles and bus stop-arms involved in the violations. For full interior coverage, each of the district’s bus surveillance solutions include four 180-degree HD cameras and a windshield-mount IP camera. A 12-channel DVR, panic/event marker, sensor harness and Wi-Fi/GPS antenna complete the solution on each bus.
Clayton continues, “We wanted the complete package. As much footage and coverage inside and outside the buses as possible. Everything I do with the cameras goes through the ARMOR Suite. I very rarely plug into the hard drives on the buses to watch footage. I go through ARMOR Suite, request footage and pull it from the DVR or the cloud, depending on what I have time for. Then, I use ARMOR Suite to email video to local law enforcement. Essentially, the ARMOR Suite offered everything we wanted it to offer for us.”
“… by the time we finished that conversation …”
The solutions’ safety and timesaving capabilities were proven during a recent morning bus route. Clayton recalls, “I took a call from the elementary school. It was explained to me that a student crossing the road near a bus stop was hit by a vehicle. No witnesses other than kindergarten-age students and our bus was roughly nine blocks away when this happened.
“Having the vehicle’s description from the students,” Clayton adds, “I instantly got on my ARMOR Suite and requested surveillance footage from around the time the incident occurred. I know what time that bus stop happens, so I requested footage for five minutes prior and five minutes after our designated time for that stop.”
Shortly after requesting the video, Clayton met with the students. He points out, “I went to the elementary school and had a conversation with the student involved. We had the other students that were at the bus stop come down and by the time we finished that conversation, my footage was downloaded. We were able to identify the vehicle that fit the description that all three kids gave to us.”
“… 37 seconds after the incident.”
A legible, high-definition view from the school bus stop-arm camera enabled positive identification of the vehicle. The transportation director clarifies, “The vehicle was coming from the west on the block. The bus was coming from the east. The bus was nine blocks away and they met on the road. We were able to catch the vehicle’s rear license plate off the stop-arm camera 37 seconds after the incident. We had a split second to catch that vehicle in the rear-facing camera and we paused it. It was like you were standing there 10 feet away from it. It was just completely clear.”
Clayton concludes, “I was able to email our local police department the time-stamped footage of the vehicle’s license plate, which led to charges being pressed. They’ve been extremely happy with the clarity of the videos. And I did this all within 15 minutes of being notified of the event. Being able to have real-time answers and being able to get those answers in just a fluid motion; ‘beyond satisfied’ is the best way to put it into words.”
For more information about advanced stop-arm solutions, contact REI.