Drivers who ignore school bus stop signs, beware. Falls Church school bus drivers and student riders are about to get some backup help.
Beginning Monday, just in time for National School Bus Safety Week, Oct. 21-25, school bus stop arm cameras will be activated to monitor motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses on some of Falls Church City roads.
The City of Falls Church will be the first community in Virginia to approve the use of exterior school bus cameras. Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the "Video-Monitoring on School Buses" bill into law in 2011 and it went into effect in July that year. Failing to stop for a school bus could result in a $250 fine.
Falls Church City Public Schools (FCCPS) and the Falls Church Police Department are partnering with American Traffic Solutions (ATS), a photo enforcement provider, by deploying CrossingGuard®, which will snap a photo and video of drivers who don't obey the law.
In the accompanying video, FCCPS said they decided to find out how big a problem running school bus stop signs was, and found out over a three-day period that 60 cars ran the stop signs of three of its buses.
The City of Falls Church, an FCCPS committee and the FCPD chose ATS for the new program, which has piloted "stop arm enforcement" programs in Maryland, Georgia, Florida and Texas.
“Our main goal is to keep our students safe,” said Toni Jones, superintendent of Falls Church City Public Schools, in a news release. “These cameras are the safety solution we need to reduce the number of these types of violations to protect our students.”
The program is administered and maintained by ATS with no upfront cost to the district. Once implemented, the program will be 100 percent stop arm violator funded. In Virginia, a violation is considered a civil penalty that will warrant the vehicle’s owner a $250 fine.
Approximately 12 buses transport 2,000 students to and from school each week in Falls Church. "Our goal is to educate drivers and stop the illegal passing of school buses," said Mary Gavin, chief of police for the City of Falls Church. "Our number one priority is to protect our citizens. We are proud to have this additional tool to help keep our children safe."
For more information about the FCCPS school bus stop arm program, click on the video that accompanies this article, to learn more about their campaign and educating drivers.
What should you do when you see a bus stop? You should slow down when approaching a school bus that is flashing its yellow warning lights (a telltale sign the bus is preparing to load or unload passengers). You should stop at least 20 feet away from a school bus with its stop-arm extended and wait for the stop- arm to retract and the red lights to stop flashing before moving your vehicle.
Find more information about school bus safety from FCCPS here.
What do you think of the new program?