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(Updated) Vernon Education Officials Mulling Concept of External Cameras on School Buses

The idea is to catch drivers who do not stop.

Updated Oct. 10, 7:22 a.m.

Lights, camera, crosswalk.

Wait …

Camera?

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."

Paul Stansel October 10, 2012 at 12:46 PM
So I'm going to take a lot of flack for this... but I disagree. Yes it is a huge safety concern. Yes I hope they catch anyone who does it. But as a society the enforcement of laws should be up to the actual law enforcement officials. Stoplight cameras, bus cameras, etc... Where does it end? We are slowly headed down a path to a Big Brother society that is ALWAYS watching us, whether we are aware of it or need it.
Laurie Bajorek October 10, 2012 at 12:56 PM
It's interesting to me how much money the vendor and town would make off violations. Is this REALLY about safety?
The Truth October 10, 2012 at 01:58 PM
I do agree more cameras in general is bad, but when it comes to kids and school buses it seems like a good idea. I've seen some pretty bad videos online of people not stopping for school buses and going at great lengths to avoid them. I don't think all buses need them, just a few to scare people/make them think twice.
meowkats4 October 10, 2012 at 03:53 PM
No I don't think we should have cameras taking pictures of cars on every SCHOOL BUS!!! I live off of Route 83 and everyday I leave for work just about the time the school bus comes down Route 83 and I have to wait in line with everyone else for the school bus. When the buses STOP sign is closed the traffic continues on both sides of 83 as it should. In the long run I don't think very many idiots will try to pass a STOPPED SCHOOL BUS! The cost will not be valid for the very few that will try and pass the Stopped School Bus!
Bert October 10, 2012 at 05:19 PM
If the text of this article is correct, this will cost the town nothing. The company will install the cameras and monitor them for free. They will make their money by taking 52% of the ticket after the state takes their share. Each ticket will net the town $126.00. If the town only tickets three cars per week now, the additional number of tickets issued would probably gain the town money over the present system. However, this is not about money. I am not generally a fan of "Big Brother" tactics but taking advantage of this advanced technology.to save a child's life seems to be a good idea.
Chris Dehnel (Editor) October 10, 2012 at 05:54 PM
Yes, Bert, this was the presentation - free installation and a percentage of ticket revenue - by the finance director.
meowkats4 October 10, 2012 at 06:01 PM
No I don't want to see cameras on School Buses!!! Just the other day I can't remember where, but I stopped and looked at the poll to my right and saw a camera aimed directly at the Driver (which was me)! I just don't like it that people can get watched!!!
Chris Dehnel (Editor) October 11, 2012 at 01:28 PM
School board member Kyle Percy and I were just discussing this and he wants to make sure this is clear - the cameras only operate when the bus red lights are on, and a live person has to monitor them. Authorities cannot go back a week or even and hour to look at video. If no violation is made, the footage is not saved. He said the cameras are specifically to catch the people running the red lights on a bus.
cmmj October 11, 2012 at 01:33 PM
my son was almost hit by a pick-up at the bus-stop. Stop sign out and red lights flashing.
George October 11, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Why don't we just buy a bunch of drones and have them everywhere, monitoring everyone, all the time!!! Just think how "safe" we'd be then!!! Puleeeeze!?!?!
Lorrie December 28, 2012 at 03:23 PM
will there be an update to this story ? I want to say that First Student does an excellent job of getiing my child to and from school. They really take the safety of our children to heart.If this is an extra tool for them, I say go for it.

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