A bill allowing video surveillance to enforce school bus stop-arm violations will be taken up by the North Carolina Senate.
Senate Bill 298 was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It now moves to a vote on the Senate floor.
The bill says video captured by a school bus safety camera can be used in enforcing school bus stop-arm violations. The vehicle’s registered owner faces a $500 fine, and is subject to a $100 late penalty if the ticket is not paid in time.
“Parents, when they put their children on those buses every morning and they come home every afternoon, they have an expectation of safety,” said Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond County.
McInnis, who is one sponsor of the bill, said the bill would help school districts partner with companies to put cameras on the stop arms of school buses to catch drivers who pass a stopped school bus. It would allow those school systems to charge a $500 civil fine to the owner of the vehicle.
It would be up to the vehicle’s owner to prove it wasn’t them driving, and anyone with outstanding fines would not be able to renew their registration.
The money collected through the fines would be shared between the camera companies and the school systems.
Democratic Sen. Angela Bryant said she has some reservations about the bill, including the fine itself.
“I’m still concerned about the steep price of the fine, and the fact that this is a revenue-generating proposal,” Bryant said. “In the actual research they use to install these camera, they only install them on about 20 percent of the buses. So I’m also worried about any possible profiling.”
McInnis, however, said the school systems will not look at race or class in installing the cameras, but instead at routes that have the most violators.
“I don’t see that profiling has any place in this conversation,” McInnis said.
Under current North Carolina law, G.S. 20-217, drivers who are convicted of passing a stopped schools bus face a $500 fine and are not eligible for a prayer for judgment.
A driver who passes a stopped school bus and hits someone will face a Class I felony and a minimum of $1,000. The penalty rises to a Class H felony and fine of $2,500 if someone is killed.
State law says drivers going either direction must stop when a school bus is stopped to let children off. Drivers are not supposed to continue until the bus has completed dropping the children off and begun to move again.
Drivers can pass a stopped school bus if their lane is separated from the bus by a physical barrier such as a median or if when there is a turn lane in the middle of a five-lane road.
In a single day, the Department of Public Instruction said more than 3,000 vehicles passed stopped school buses, putting more than 800,000 children in danger.
DPI Transportation Services Section Chief Derek Graham hopes the bill will be an eye opener.
“They’re going to have to pay this $500 fine. They’re going to complain about it to some friends, there’s more chatter in the community,” Graham said. “Maybe people will just pay attention to stopped school buses. That’s what it’s all about — we’re trying to get people to brake for buses.”
WNCN is encouraging everyone to spread the word. Tell your friends, your family members, and most importantly talk to your kids. Spread the word on social media using #Brake4Buses. You could save a life.
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