School bus cameras catch illegal drivers

With the cameras now operating on five Stratford Public Schools buses, Stratford Police is citing many more drivers for illegally passing school buses than it did before the cameras were in use.

Stratford police issued 46 citations for illegally passing a Stratford school bus from November through January, according to Lt. Curtis Eller of the department.  Each violation carries a fine of $465.  Eller reported that only five violations were cited in the 10-month period January 2012 through October 2012.  

The program of cameras on school buses, known as Smart Bus, began here last October after approval of the Board of Education and Town Council. The fines collected from violators are split — the town gets 80% (and this funds the program) and 20% goes to the company that produces the system, Redflex Traffic Systems.  There was no upfront expense for Stratford to acquire the system.  Stratford is one of 13 school districts in Connecticut to use the bus camera program.  

The system works with digital video cameras automatically recording anything that passes the bus once its red lights are flashing and the stop sign arm is out. Redflex then sends the recordings of possible violations to Stratford Police, where the video images are examined, according to Lt. Eller.

When police determine a violation did occur they produce an affidavit with a description of the incident, a printed still photograph and an internet link to the video images of the alleged violation. The affidavit and violation citation are then sent to the person to whom the vehicle is registered.  

Stratford Public Schools Chief Operating Officer Michael Feeney says, “We are concerned about the safety of all of our students, and we do not want vehicles passing buses illegally.”

Smart Bus is intended to increase safety for bus riders by deterring drivers from ever passing a school bus that is loading or unloading, according to Redflex. Motorists may be more likely to abide by the law when the see the camera installed on the front and rear of the driver’s side of the bus.

Route analysis is underway to determine which routes pose the most problems. Mr. Feeney said he would be happy to see the program expanded to more buses if a need is seen.

The citation statistics show that violations have been occurring with frequency. It remains to be seen if the illegal activity occur less often once drivers recognize the camera equipment on the buses.

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