West Liberty-Salem installs $30K cameras on school buses

West Liberty-Salem Local School District has a new tool to keep kids safe on the bus — and hold motorists accountable.

Cameras were installed on the driver’s side of the district’s school buses next to the stop arm. If a driver is not following rules when it comes to driving on the road with buses, the camera can zoom in and catch a video of the driver’s license plate.

“The bus driver is trying to help kids get off the bus, trying to monitor the road, all the situations and sometimes it’s hard to identify the car,” said West Liberty-Salem Superintendent Kraig Hissong.

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West Liberty-Salem installed the cameras on 18 of their 21 buses on Tuesday morning, the first day of the 2019-2020 school year for the district. The cameras were up and running by that afternoon, Hissong said.

All 18 of the buses that now have the cameras run regular routes to and from school. The cameras and the software to view the video captured on the cameras cost the school district about $30,000.

The camera will always be rolling while the bus is moving, and if a motorist speeds past a school bus while the stop arm is out, the driver has the ability to hit a button that will flag that point in the video.

Once the flagged video is reviewed, staff can freeze the video and zoom in on the driver’s license plate. That footage will then be given to the police department or the sheriff’s office.

“The pixels, resolutions on these cameras are amazing so you’re able to really zoom in tight on an image without it distorting,” Hissong said.

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According to Ohio law, the driver of a vehicle must come to a complete stop at least 10 feet from the front or the rear of a school bus when meeting the vehicle in either direction.

Drivers are also required to stay completely stopped until the school bus lowers its stop arm and resumes driving.

Passing a school bus that has its flashing lights on and stop arm out carries a maximum penalty of $500 and a one-year license suspension, according to Ohio law. Drivers could also face additional punishment in the form of points on their license and higher car insurance payments.

Hissong said there have been plenty of incidents when cars haven’t stopped for the buses, and he hopes these cameras put a stop to it.

“Whether it’s forgetting or disregarding — it’s one of those things that does present a pretty serious safety hazard and we wanted to make sure we have a way to monitor that,” Hissong said. “If you’re going past the school bus and you fail to stop, the video is on and you’re going to be captured in a video image.”

Ohio traffic law on stopping for stopped school buses:

“The driver of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley upon meeting or overtacking from either direction any school bus stopped for the purpose of receiving or dischanging any school child, person attending programs offered by community boards of mental health and county boards of developmental disabilities, or child attending a program offered by a head start agency, shall stop at least ten feet from the front or rear of the school bus and shall not proceed until such school bus resumes motion, or until signaled by the school bus driver to proceed.”

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