Atlanta Public Schools is the latest school district to install cameras on school buses to catch drivers who break the law by passing stopped buses.
Gwinnett County, Cobb County, Clayton County, Decatur and Marietta are among the districts already using similar technology. All but Gwinnett contract with Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions. Fulton County schools are also planning to install cameras on some buses.
“This program will operate just like others in the area with the expectation that they’ll achieve the same reductions in school bus stop-arm running as have been seen in neighboring communities,” ATS spokesman Charles Territo said of the Atlanta program.
ATS will mount cameras on the side of Atlanta school buses — about 20 to start, Territo said. When a bus stop arm is deployed, the camera will automatically detect vehicles passing the stop arm and capture video and still images. The Atlanta Police Department will review potential violations before issuing tickets.
Fines are $300 for the first offense and up to $1,000 for the third offense in five years. Initially, the Atlanta Police Department will issue warnings instead of tickets.
Arizona-based ATS will receive 60 percent of ticket revenue, the city of Atlanta 26.6 percent and the school district 13.4 percent, according to district records.
State law requires motorists traveling in both directions to stop for school buses that are loading and unloading (lights flashing and stop arm extended), unless the road is divided by a median. If there is a median, the vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of the bus aren’t required to stop.
After 5-year-old Karla Campos was hit and killed as she stepped off her school bus in Cobb County in 2009, parents lobbied lawmakers to allow video cameras to catch violators. Georgia changed state law in 2011 to allow it. State lawmakers have since updated the 2011 law to allow school districts or outside vendors to issue violations.
Cobb County was one of the first and largest Georgia districts to use the school bus cameras in 2012.
Since installing the cameras, Cobb has seen the number of drivers illegally passing stopped school buses drop significantly, Cobb transportation director Rick Grisham said. In May of this year, about 876 citations were issued. That works out to less than one violation per bus per day, he said.
About 2 percent of drivers receiving citations in Cobb are repeat offenders.
Like Atlanta Public Schools, the Cobb schools split revenue from the bus cameras with ATS and local government. Cobb spends its cut on safety programs and equipment, Grisham said.
“Our focus is on education and awareness,” Grisham said.