Updated Oct. 10, 7:22 a.m.
Lights, camera, crosswalk.
Yes, on school buses - the outside of school buses.
School buses in town already have internal surveillance systems on board as part of the new operating contract with First Student. Now, with the blessing of the Board of Education's Finance Committee, Superintendent of Schools Mary Conway and Director of Business and Finance Michael Purcaro will discuss with Police Chief James Kenny and the office of the state's attorney the merits of having an external camera system installed on buses.
Kenny was initially consulted, as was Sonja Hills, the yard manager for First Student. Mason Thrall, the transportation director for the Capitol Region Education Council, was also in on the preliminary discussions.
The idea to explore the camera systems was presented by Board of Education member Kyle Percy, who said it is, beyond anything, a safety issue. His family's school bus route spends considerable time on the well-traveled Route 83. The Finance Committee discussed it on Tuesday.
The idea behind the cameras is to thwart drivers who do not stop for a school bus either loading or unloading students. Thrall said in an Oct. 1 report that bus drivers find it almost impossible to report drivers who blow through the bus crosswalks because they would need to manually take down all information about the vehicle while their attention is on the students.
The cameras give the drivers three more sets of eyes, Purcaro said.
The cameras are activated once the school bus stop lights turn on and the crosswalk arm extends from the vehicle, Purcaro said. If someone fails to stop, the actions of that driver would be recorded, he said.
Purcaro said there is one realistic vendor for the project - Providence-based Smart Bus Live. The company installs the cameras free of charge and monitors them.
When a violation occurs, a staff members reviews the digital images, saves the exact violation, discards the remaining footage, and works with the police department to send off a ticket, Purcaro says.
Purcaro said he was told by Hills that cars fail to stop for school buses at least three times each week. It is a common thing on the opposite side of four-lane roads like Route 83. Cars are required to stop for buses across the road, despite the four lanes.
Tickets for running through a school bus crosswalk are $450, Purcaro said. The state retains 20 percent, or $90, Purcaro said. He said Smart Bus Live gets 52 percent, or $234, and the town gets the remaining 28 percent, or $126.
Legislation - Public Act 11-255 allows a municipality or school system to install an exterior surveillance system on school buses and use a third-party to administer it.
Smart bus live keeps the video if there is a violation and it is made available to anyone who might question receiving a ticket.
"We are not reacting to an accident involving a student. We are taking a pro-active approach to safety," Purcaro said.
Said Percy, "As a society we react to tragedies. I would like to react before a tragedy strikes in this case. Bringing running school bus stop signs and lights to the forefront is important to me. I have seen this happen many times to busses on Route 83 this school year. This is my opinion and not necessarily the opinion if the board of education's."