Task Force backs AG Cooper’s plan to make school buses safer

Task Force backs AG Cooper’s plan to make school buses safer

By / State News / Wednesday, 19 November 2014 05:00

RALEIGH, N.C. : November 17th, 2014 - A plan by Attorney General Roy Cooper to catch violators who speed past stopped school buses won support today from a key group of legislators and experts.
Cooper and staff members presented the plan at today’s meeting of a subcommittee of the Child Fatality Task Force, which includes state legislators and child safety experts from across North Carolina.  The subcommittee voted unanimously to support Cooper’s plan.
“This is a proven way to deter motorists from passing stopped school buses without cost to the taxpayers,” Cooper said.  “It will definitely make our kids safer when they ride the bus to school.”
State law makes it illegal to pass a school bus while it is stopped to pick up or drop off children, but this fall North Carolina children have been injured and even killed while boarding or waiting for their bus.
Cooper wants North Carolina to equip all public school buses in the state with cameras that would photograph the license plates of any vehicle that illegally passes a stopped school bus. He wrote to the Task Force last month seeking its support.
Photographs of offenders’ license plates captured by the cameras would then be used to automatically issue civil citations to registered vehicle owners. Monetary penalties paid by violators would go to public schools under the state’s Constitution, so the system could pay for itself.
A number of other states have enacted similar laws, including Georgia, Maryland and Virginia, and have found that this method improves student safety and deters potentially deadly violations.
Implementing the system in North Carolina would require state legislation to give local school boards the necessary authority.  The North Carolina School Boards Association also backs the plan to improve school bus safety.
Every day thousands of drivers in North Carolina speed past stopped school buses,  putting children at risk.  In a one-day survey at the beginning of the 2014 school year, NC school  bus drivers reported 3,153 vehicles passing stopped school buses, more than double the violations reported in 2000.   
In a letter to the subcommittee it stated, "In recent months, NC children boarding or waiting for school buses have been injured and even killed by careless drivers. These tragedies are preventable.  As you know from past work on this issue, parents, school officials and law enforcement work to protect children and hold violators accountable, but the sheer number of buses makes it impractical for law enforcement to  catch every violator.  We can and should do more to protect children by using technology to the fullest extent."
The letter explained, "States around the country are using state-of-the-art technology to catch violators who pass stopped school buses.  Systems in Virginia and Georgia deploy stop-arm cameras mounted on school buses to detect illegally passing vehicles, photograph the license plates, and issue automatic citations to vehicle owners. The systems pay for themselves using fines collected from violators, similar to the way red light photo enforcement works. Utilizing this civil citation method would improve student safety and enforcement while minimizing the work load on school districts, law enforcement and the criminal justice system. It’s working. These states have seen fewer drivers speeding past stopped school buses thanks to the swift, automatic action following each violation.  For example, a large, urban county in Georgia issued 1,302 citations in its first month. But by the sixth month, citations dropped to 375 per month, a 71 percent decrease."
Source: NC Department of Justice.

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