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This Bill Could Mean Tickets From School Buses

Arvind Balaraman

A familiar yellow school bus slows to pick up a group of giddy children at the corner. Florida drivers, perhaps caught in the morning rush to work, know they’re supposed to stop. After all, the bus’s retractable red stop sign and flashing lights serve as glaring reminders. But are motorists actually following the law?

Overwhelmingly, the answer is no. The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles asked Florida bus drivers to count the number of illegal passes on a single day. During that April 2012 window, there were about 8,900 incidents across the state. Miami-Dade alone contributed to the total with a whopping 1,178.

In an attempt to curtail the seemingly – excuse the shameless pun – nonstop flow of offenses, Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater filed a bill in the House that could help school districts identify offenders.

According to the News Service of Florida,

A bill that would let school districts put cameras on school buses with the hope of getting pictures of drivers who don't observe the school bus stop signs when children are boarding was filed Tuesday in the House. The measure (HB 669) by Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, was also filed last year but died in committee. Under the bill, for which there is no Senate companion yet, the images or video recorded by a school bus safety camera could not contain the faces of people driving through the stop sign. The fine for getting caught blowing through a school bus stop sign under the legislation would be $250. 

As it stands now, drivers who pass a school bus on the left side commit a moving violation and could be fined $165 for their first offense. A first-time pass on the right is heftier at $265 and subjects the offender to a mandatory hearing.

Using cameras to catch law-breaking motorists, as it turns out, is not a novel idea. As New Times Broward-Palm Beach pointed out, “If the idea seems a tad similar to the pesky and controversial red light cameras, it's probably because the same company, American Traffic Solutions, is leading the development of school bus cameras -- though none of its bus cameras are being tested in Florida yet.”

The cameras designed by American Traffic Solutions feature automated high-resolution cameras, wireless upload, and what they’re calling a Violation Data Bar – which notes information like the time of the offense, bus number and GPS coordinates. With these features, drivers can keep their hands on the wheel.

There’s got to be a downside to the system, though, right? (Besides waking up to a ticket in the mail, of course.) New Times further notes:

While GPS coordinates and a violation processing system sound techie and sophisticated, the system will likely be prone to the same flaws as red light cameras and clog up traffic courts with drivers arguing that the school bus spewed out an unjust ticket. 

Sources of funding are also unclear, although school districts across the state will not be required to implement the system.

"If they don't find the funding, they don't have to do it," Sen. Oscar Braynon (D-Miami Dade) told Fox 4 last year.

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