Yesterday the state Senate gave final approval to a bill that would require Wyoming school districts to equip new school buses with cameras by the 2015-16 school year to target motorists who illegally pass stopped buses. After passing on a 19-11 vote, House Bill 5 was sent to Gov. Matt Mead for his consideration.
If signed into law, the measure would appropriate up to $5 million to equip all 1,700 school buses in the state with internal and external video systems in time for the 2015-2016 school year.
It is estimated that school buses stopped while loading or unloading students are passed illegally about 52,000 times annually in Wyoming .On Dec. 20, 2011, 11-year-old MaKayla Marie Strahle of Crowheart was struck and killed by a passing motorist who failed to stop for her school bus after she disembarked and attempted to cross the road.
The Wyoming Legislature's Joint Education Committee endorsed a proposal Oct. 22, 2013 to install cameras inside and outside school buses as a means to better protect students. Proponents of video cameras contend it would help reduce incidents of motorists illegally passing stopped buses.
David Koskelowski, state director of transportation at the Wyoming Department of Education, said that about half of the state's buses already have video cameras mounted either inside the bus for onboard recording or at the stop arm to monitor motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses. He explained that equipping the remaining buses with either internal or external cameras would be a similar job as what a decent-sized school district in, say, California or Texas would be faced with.
He noted that Wyoming would become the first state to have these cameras on every bus in the fleet and added that the intent is to be vendor neutral when it come to camera suppliers.
The bill calls for 100-percent reimbursement for school districts to ensure buses purchased before July 1, 2015 and used for home-to-school transportation have video systems recording events inside and outside of the bus. After July 1, 2015, funding for the cost of on-board and stop-arm video cameras would fall under the state's existing block funding grant.
"Our goal, if this becomes law, is to have each district work with their current camera vendor and add cameras to the current system," he told STN. "We may have to add additional ports (from a four/five to an eight), but this would be included in our reimbursement. Once all of this happens, all buses delivered in the (2015-16) school year would have to have cameras on them, when delivered and prior to being placed in service."