A pilot program in North Carolina aims to make your child's journey to school safer by installing high-resolution cameras on yellow school buses. The cameras were installed on two school buses from the Rowan-Salisbury School System and are powerful enough to clearly record not only the license plate of passing cars but the expression on the driver's face. Rowan-Salisbury is one of five districts in the state taking part in the test. There are a total of seven buses in the pilot each installed with around $4,000 of technological equipment, funded through the Governor's Highway Safety Program instead of school budgets.
Derek Graham, section chief of transportation services for the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, said at least 10 students, including one from Rowan County, have been killed by drivers who failed to halt for stopped schools buses since 1998.
Graham noted that despite the small initial test it could have a wider impact on safety as drivers won't know which buses have cameras installed and will be less likely to perform dangerous overtaking maneuvers across the state. The program is about more than just prosecuting drivers who break the law; it's about raising awareness and making sure drivers know that it's dangerous to pass a stopped school bus.
Judy Burris, the district's transportation director, said since the camera systems were installed, 10 drivers have been issued citations for passing a stopped school bus in Rowan County.
Four of them have pleaded guilty and one was found guilty. The other five have pending court dates.
"That is a great record, and it does show that the system is working," she said.
There are 188 buses on the road in the school system, shuttling over ten thousand students to school and back each day. Burris also echoed Graham's point that the program was designed to lessen the occurrence of violations rather than simply prosecute offenders. The more people who know that overtaking a school bus that has stopped to let off children is not only illegal but costs children's lives, then the safer all schoolchildren will be.