The Muscogee County School District in Columbus, Ga., is working with the local Sheriff's Department and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) to implement new school bus surveillance video to capture motorists who illegally run school bus stop arms and red lights deployed during student loading and unloading.
Georgia has led the nation with nearly a dozen children killed by these illegal school bus passer over the last five years. Muscogee is the fifth Georgia county to partner with ATS, and 75 school buses in the state were equipped with stop-arm cameras, at this writing, with an additional 129 buses to be outfitted in the next several weeks, a company spokeswoman said. She added that a sixth county, Marrieta, Ga., is currently piloting the cameras and enforcement system, as are several districts in neighboring Florida.
"I am one of the first people to respond to the scene when a child has been struck by a driver who broke the law and passed a school bus while children are loading or unloading," said David Scott Thomann, security supervisor at Muscogee County School District. "There is no reason to violate the law and risk an injury or actually injure one of our children. Drivers must stop!"
The photo enforcement solution is a result of a partnership between ATS and video camera provider AngelTrax. AngelTrax's IntelliGuard Stop Arm Enforcement Camera System records license plate information, and then ATS' CrossingGuard enforcement system works with local law enforcement officials to issue a citation to the registered vehicle owner. In this case, ATS submits the video to the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department for approval before a citation is issued. ATS added that it administers and maintains the video enforcement program at zero cost for districts like Muscogee County.
In Georgia, the penalty for the first stop-arm violation in Georgia is a $300 fine, a $750 fine for the second violation and a $1,000 fine for a third violation that occurs in a five-year period. School districts, in turn, receive 25 percent of fines in year one, 40 percent in year two and 50 percent years three through five.
"Our goal is to educate drivers and stop the illegal passing of school buses," said Frank Brown, the district's director of transportation. "Our number one priority is to protect the children who ride our school buses to and from school each day. We are proud to have this additional tool to help keep our children safe."
Muscogee County School District's 210 bus drivers transport 16,000 students on 850 bus routes to and from school each week.