We commend the town of Stratford and Stratford Public Schools for instituting the Smart Bus program that has cameras mounted on five school buses in order to catch drivers of vehicles that illegally pass a bus that has its stop sign out and its red lights flashing and create a deterrent. (Cameras on Buses, page 1.) The major motor vehicle violation, which endangers the lives of school children loading and unloading buses, has apparently been occurring far more often than police were able to witness. No police force could be expected to trail each bus on each route.
Since the camera program officially began here in October, video recordings submitted to Stratford police have led to 46 vehicles being cited for illegally passing a bus. Only five violations were cited in the prior 10 months when the police were aware only of what they observed in person. We surmise that the drivers have been unaware of the new cameras, and their recent activity indicates how they have been driving in the past. Unaware of the cameras and with no police officer in sight, the drivers figured they would not be caught in the violation.
Now the large $465 fines and public awareness of the bus cameras should work as deterrents.
We paused to consider the spreading use of cameras by government law enforcement. We know some cities have cameras in various places to watch for criminal activity and serve as a deterrent. We know highway plazas record passing motorists and toll evaders. No doubt there are many other examples around the country. We also know people do not like an intrusive government.
Our instinct may be to disapprove of cameras watching over us, but the use of cameras in public has been deemed legal for the good and safety of the people. As we understand that the purpose of the Smart Bus camera program is to protect children by deterring illegal use of a motor vehicle, we agree it is good to have the program in place.
One of the many favorable aspects of Smart Bus is that the fines collected from violators pay for the program. Truly smart. Let us remember at the same time that the incentive is not solely to catch violators. The intention is to deter dangerous driving in the first place.
The Stratford Star is doing its part to notify local drivers that cameras may be recording them as they pass a stopped school bus and that fines are large. We hope they are deterred from driving in such a way again.
We urge all local drivers to abide by the law — Smart Bus program or not — and never pass a bus with its red lights flashing.