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School bus cameras to nab impatient drivers

Drivers captured on film going around a school bus with its crossing arm out would be fined $394 to be split by the school and the state. American Traffic Solutions would earn $69 for each ticket paid, coming out of the school's portion. (Photo: American Traffic Solutions)

It’s one of the week’s hottest viral videos. A Cleveland school bus driver who was so tired of seeing a woman speed around his bus full of handicapped children he got out his cell phone camera to catch her in the act.

The driver, Shena Hardin, 32, is facing charges of reckless driving and failing to stop for a school bus. On the advice of her attorney, she won’t talk to the media. Hardin’s mother, however, is coming to her daughter’s defense. She told NBC’s Today Show the bus takes too long and that her driving was not that dangerous.

“Clearly the handicap boy can not run across the street. There’s a factory across the street,” says Hardin’s mother.

But, cameras found a daycare center right next to the sidewalk where Hardin sped past the school bus.

Hardin’s example is extreme, but it is something that happens thousands of times every day. Impatient or distracted drivers often don’t stop when children are getting on or off the school bus.

“On average, the number of violations nationwide is nearly 72,000, and in the state of Washington it’s estimated that there are about 1,600 stop-arm violations a day,” says Charles Territo, spokesman for American Traffic Solutions.

The same company that makes red light and speed cameras has a new system called “Crossing Guard.” The cameras are installed on school buses. They take still and video images of any car that passes after the crossing arm on the bus has been extended.

The King County Directors’ Association is a procurement group that works with nearly all of the school districts in our state. They have just signed a five year contract to offer “Crossing Guard” here.

“We had conversations with several school districts about this, that they were thinking about it,” says KCDA Executive Director Jim Borrow.
He says about a dozen Washington school districts are interested in installing the cameras. He could not share specifics, but says many of them are in King County.

Certain bus routes tend to see many stop arm violations every day. Others see very few, according to Borrow. He says if a district signs on to install the Crossing Guard system, they can choose the quantity and which buses to include.

The fines attached to a violation would total $394 and the money would be split equally between the school and the state. American Traffic Solutions would then get a $69 fee from the school for each ticket that is paid.

Borrow could not say when we might start seeing “Crossing Guard” cameras on school buses in our area. Territo believes it will be happening in the next school year, if not sooner.

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