Suffolk County school buses to start using Stop Arm Camera Program

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Tuesday, November 10, 2020
New camera program tracks drivers that blow by stopped school buses
Kristin Thorne reports that new school buses in Suffolk County will be able to track drivers who blow past them while stopped.

BAY SHORE, Suffolk County (WABC) -- School buses in Suffolk County will now be able to track the drivers who blow past them while they're stopped with their lights flashing.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone announced Tuesday that 6,000 school buses in the county will be equipped with stop-arm cameras to catch and ticket motorists who illegally pass stopped buses.

"Without a doubt p,assing a stopped school bus is one of the most egregious violations of the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law that we see," Suffolk County Police Chief Stuart Cameron said.

So far, 48 school districts have opted into the program, which is a partnership with BusPatrol.

"As a father of three children, nothing is more important than ensuring their safety and wellbeing," he said. "This new technology will ensure that our students will be further protected against dangerous driving when they are boarding a bus to go to school. I want to thank Bus Patrol for their partnership, and I especially want to thank the members of our School Bus Safety Advisory Committee for their commitment to ensuring a successful rollout of this vital safety initiative.

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The Bay Shore School District recently tested out the cameras, and Superintendent Joseph Bond said the data captured as well as the data collected manually by bus drivers showed 90 to 100 bus passes every day.

"That's 90 to 100 chances for one of our precious students to be taken away from us every single day," he said.

The first ticket costs $250 and goes up by $25 for every subsequent incident. Suffolk County and Bus Patrol split the proceeds from the violations.

Bellone said in other areas of the country where the technology is used 90% of people who receive a ticket never do it again.

"A daily routine such as getting on and off a school bus should not be a dangerous endeavor for children," said Kerri Vargas, with the Bay Shore Middle School PTA. "Unfortunately, it has been, and it continues to be."

The buses are also outfitted with a wide-angle lens camera on the top of the middle of the bus that records what happens leading up to the violation.

If it shows a driver couldn't avoid stopping for a bus because of a potential collision with another vehicle or because of an emergency vehicle that needed to pass, the violation may be voided.

Suffolk County is the first county in the state to use the technology.

BusPatrol is the world's most deployed stop-arm enforcement technology provider, and the safety program is completely cost-free to taxpayers and school districts.

"As a parent, I understand how important it is to protect our children," BusPatrol President and CEO Jean Souliere said. "The new reality we are living has brought even greater focus to that responsibility, particularly when it comes to the journey to and from school. Under the leadership of Executive Steve Bellone, we are bringing world-class, cutting edge safety technology to every school bus in Suffolk County. As a result, every child will be safer, and every driver will know that stop means stop because we are watching, and offenders will be penalized. We commend Executive Bellone on this bold and thoughtful initiative, and look forward to successfully implementing what will certainly be a model program for the rest of the nation to follow."

Suffolk County's school bus safety program will the technology with a robust public awareness campaign to educate drivers, reduce violations, and protect children. All upfront costs for the installation and maintenance of the stop-arm cameras will be covered by BusPatrol.

The modernized buses will include:

- Cloud-connected stop-arm and safety cameras that function in variable weather conditions

- 4G LTE connectivity

- AI assisted technology

- 4K & 180-degree coverage

- Anti-vibration technology

Bellone also announced a new School Bus Safety Advisory Committee that is charged with providing recommendations and best practices for implementation of the Stop Arm Camera Program.

"We want to develop a rollout plan that will provide everyone who is interested with advance knowledge of the program," Bellone said. "The singular mission of this program is to reduce and ultimately end violations of the NYS School Bus Passing Law in Suffolk County."

Officials say the new agreement was signed in November, and the program is expected to go-live in the first quarter of 2021.


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