By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN
BG Independent News
School buses in Bowling Green are now equipped with their own type of red-light cameras.
So far this school year, at least 19 vehicles have illegally passed Bowling Green City School buses stopped for picking up or dropping off children.
So the district is investing in cameras mounted on the bus exteriors to catch drivers illegally passing stopped buses.
Wednesday morning, Bowling Green City Schools Transportation Director Toby Snow stood outside Kenwood Elementary as the buses conducted annual emergency evacuation drills during National Bus Safety Week.
But Snow is aware that one of the biggest threats comes from other vehicles sharing the road with school buses.
About three years ago, the district put external cameras on three buses that were experiencing the most problems with red light runners.
But then the number of vehicles running past stopped buses jumped this year, Snow said. He reported 18 to the school board earlier this month. That number has since grown to 19.
“I just decided it’s a good thing to see from all of them,” Snow said of buying additional cameras.
So far, 11 buses are equipped with the cameras – which cost about $750 each. Seven more cameras are on order. The district has a total of 20 school buses that carry about 1,300 students to and from school each day.
The law requires drivers to stop for school buses when the red lights are on and the stop sign is extended on the side of the bus. Vehicles are required to stop at least 10 feet away from the bus.
The bus drivers put yellow lights on first to warn drivers that a bus stop is approaching.
If the bus is on a four-lane road, just the vehicles headed the same direction as the bus are required to stop.
Bus drivers are asked to identify the vehicle, license plate and give a description of the driver for vehicles passing them illegally. But that is asking too much for drivers who are also watching a busload of children, Snow said.
“It’s almost impossible,” he said.
So the cameras help do the job. They are mounted at an angle so they catch license plates of passing vehicles.
“We’ve had them catching them as fast as 50 mph,” Snow said. And they are able to capture license plates in daylight or darkness.
“The driver can now concentrate on the children,” he said.
Bowling Green is not alone having problems with drivers not stopping for buses. “It’s a nationwide issue.”
Earlier this year, an 8-year-old in Missouri was killed by a truck as she was crossing the road to get on her school bus.
“The safety of our kids, especially during drop-off and pick-up is important,” said Bowling Green Superintendent Francis Scruci.
The number of violations so far this year is troubling, Scruci said.
“It’s distressing. Fortunately, we haven’t had a tragedy.”
The bus cameras will help, Scruci said.
“It’s just an added resource to keep kids safe,” he said. “When a car or truck passes, we can at least report that to police.”
Scruci has heard the common complaints from motorists annoyed by the delay of bus stops.
“It’s the state law and you need to abide by it,” he said. “Just stop. It’s not that long – just 30 seconds. It’s not going to kill you.”