Cameras will help promote safety around buses
Article Courtesy of David Mazzenga
Tri-County Independent USA TODAY NETWORK
HONESDALE—Wayne Highlands School District (WHSD) recently announced new steps taken towards bolstered student safety on and near the school bus.
Utilizing $40,000 awarded through the School Safety Grant, the district purchased seven security cameras for each of the 39 school buses in its fleet.
Five cameras are mounted inside to monitor student activity and two are located on the bus exterior to monitor traffic around the bus.
These “state of the art” cameras are “a fish-eye style camera,” said Transportation Coordinator/Business Manager Jeff Firmstone. “So, you get a nice, panoramic view.”
All cameras feed into a digital video recorder (DVR) box next to the driver. The driver can hit a button to trigger a time stamp should an incident occur whether on the bus or outside of it.
The video file can then be saved to an external memory device like a flash drive at the end of run and reviewed on a computer.
“It's about safety for the kids,” repeated numerous district officials, including Superintendent Gregory Frigoletto, Assistant Superintendent Timothy Morgan and Firmstone.
The trio explained the surveillance cameras allow the driver to focus on the road while still generating a record of events should an incident occur.
The interior cameras will be useful for issues of rider discipline, and the exterior cameras for monitoring drivers who do not stop when the bus' red lights are flashing and stop sign is deployed.
According to the American School Bus Council, vehicles passing a school bus are estimated to cause two-thirds of bus loading and unloading fatalities. Additionally, almost two-thirds of school-bus-related fatalities of school age children occur outside the school bus.
“The fact of the matter is, the most dangerous time on a school bus for the children is getting on and getting off,” said Firmstone, reminding motorists to follow the law and drive safely around school buses.
In addition to being incredibly dangerous for the passengers loading and unloading, passing a stopped school bus unfortunately happens far too frequently.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, there are more than 700 drivers each year who are convicted for passing a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.
“When this has happened in the past, bus drivers are horrified,” said Frigoletto.
Frequently, when it happens bus drivers are unable to acquire the perpetrator's identification. Drivers more often than not had to rely on parents or other on-the-street witnesses to catch and report a perpetrator's license plate. With exterior cameras, drivers can keep their focus on their charges and still be able to identify perpetrators.
“This isn't about trying to get people,” said Morgan, reiterating the cameras' primary goal is student safety. “It's about creating an environment where kids can get off the bus, cross the street safely, and not have to worry about what's happening.”
Frigoletto added, “When an accident happens in regard to this particular topic, it's catastrophic...It's a horrible thing.”
With that in mind, WHSD took the opportunity to remind motorists to practice proper school bus safety protocols.
Safe driving around school buses
According to Pennsylvania law, motorists must stop at least 10 feet away from school buses which have their stop arm out and red lights flashing.
This includes motorists behind the bus, in lanes adjacent to the bus, and oncoming traffic.
Additionally, when a school bus is stopped at an intersection, cars in all lanes at that intersection must also stop and wait for the passengers to depart and arrive safely at their destination, the lights to stop flashing and the stop arm to be retracted before moving again.
Traffic may only continue moving while a bus is loading or unloading passengers if there is a physical barrier such as a guide rail or median barrier between the bus and other traffic.
Motorists who are convicted of disobeying these laws face a $250 fine, five points on their license, and a license suspension up to 60 days.
While discussing the new safety precautions outfitted to their buses, WHSD took the opportunity to remind job seekers there is a strong need for bus drivers.
Driving a bus works well for stay-at home parents as it allows them to work around the school day and be home at night with their children.
Additionally, since one needs a commercial driver license (CDL) to drive a bus, they can use that certification to work for local contractors in one of many big-rig career fields.
WHSD is currently offering a sign-on bonus as part of their incentive program to find new drivers, allowing those interested and qualified to earn some extra cash up front to pay for certifications and other up-front costs to get started