North Ridgeville City Schools plans to add four more camera-equipped buses to help catch motorists who ignore the flashing stop lights.
The North Ridgeville school board agreed Feb. 3 to seek bids to purchase the buses. The board will discuss the issue again Feb. 18 when it’s expected to vote to buy the buses.
Buses cost between $80,000 and $100,000, but North Ridgeville could get a lower price because it’s part of a consortium of districts that go in together to buy buses, said Frank Vaccha, school board president.
As motorists continue to pass buses that have stop signs arms extended and lights flashing, districts have been turning to technology to catch violators. This purchase will mean that 19 of its 63 buses will be camera-equipped by the start of the 2020-21 school year, said Matt Yunker, director of operations for North Ridgeville City Schools.
“There’s still a lot of people committing passing violations, but it’s better than it was,” Yunker said. “The cameras have helped curb the issue to people who were oblivious to traffic violations, or just oblivious, period.”
Buses have six cameras – two on the outside and four inside to monitor the passengers. The district began buying camera-equipped buses two years ago. The outside cameras catch the vehicle’s license plate number. The school district's transportation department then forwards the video to police for review.
If police determine that a driver illegally passed a stopped school bus or came within 10 feet of the bus's safety perimeter, officers deliver a citation to the address on the vehicle’s registration, said Tammy Kaczmarek, the district’s transportation supervisor.
From Aug. 1 to Feb. 5, police issued 46 citations to motorists who passed a stopped school loading or unloading students, North Ridgeville Law Director Brian Moriarty said. Between Aug. 1, 2018 and Feb. 5, 2019, police issued 50 citations for bus-passing violations, he said. By the end of the 2018-19 school year, police had issued 79 citations.
Violators face fines of up to $500 and court costs. Violators also get dinged with 2 points on their license, Moriarty said.
“We’re trying to keep our students as safe as possible, and these buses also help the drivers in a couple areas,” Yunker said. “They can focus on driving with the cameras in place and maintain better control over the passengers. Having one-third of our buses equipped with cameras is a pretty big help.”
Besides safety, Vaccha said the additional buses will accommodate enrollment growth in the district.
“Growth is a positive thing, but it comes with a lot of cost,” Vaccha said. “The message is out there, not only from the school, but from the city administration as well. It’s good to see that the city has taken a zero tolerance for this as well. You must stop when a school bus has its flashing lights on.”
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