Avon Lake City Schools plans to equip each of its 33 buses with six cameras by spring to better catch passing violators and monitor students.

The school district and the city will share the cost of the project, estimated to cost as much as $140,000.

Four of the cameras will be inside the buses to monitor students’ behavior. The other two will be outside to better catch bus-passing violators. The cameras will have infrared capabilities to read license plate numbers in the dark.

The city has approved $40,000 in its budget to put toward the cameras, and the district will pick up the remainder of the cost, estimated at $80,000 to $100,000, said Sue Cole, the district’s transportation supervisor.

Exterior cameras are expected to help better record those who illegally pass a school bus with its stop lights flashing from an approaching and passing view. There have been just five citations issued this school year. The offense carries a fine of up to $750 and possible jail time.

No one has been sentenced to jail time for a passing violation, but the low number of citations issued is due to the challenges of bus drivers trying to get the license plate number and a description of the vehicle and driver, Cole said.

Only six of Avon Lake’s 33 buses have outside cameras, but those will be replaced because they don’t have infrared capabilities. The district will equip all 33 buses with outside cameras and 31 of them with inside cameras. The last two new buses the district bought came with inside cameras, Cole said.

The district hopes to have the cameras installed and working by spring, she said.

Mayor Greg Zilka said the city recognized the need to provide part of the funding to the district, and was glad to do so.

“School bus drivers don’t have the capability to record license plate numbers or get a description of a driver passing the bus,” Zilka said. “They just can’t get out a pen or pencil and write something down when they’re most likely moving or watching kids cross the road after leaving the bus.”

Cole will review the videos to determine whether someone passed the bus while it was stopped with its lights flashing and will forward it to Avon Lake Municipal Court for a citation. If the accused offender challenges the citation, the prosecutor will review the video.

Last August, Avon Lake City Council increased the fine from $500 to $750 for drivers ignoring school bus stop signs. The new law also gives the judge the discretion to impose up to a 30-day jail sentence.

Avon Lake resident Samuel Getachew was the first to be fined this year for illegally passing a school bus.

Getachew, 63, was fined $250 and paid an additional $102 in court costs Jan. 7 in Avon Lake Municipal Court. He passed a school bus on Legacy Pointe near Jaycox Road at 4:05 p.m. on Dec. 17, according to court information.

Contact this reporter at msakal@westlifenews.com or 440-871-5797.

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