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Hall wants stop-arm cams on school buses

28 Feb 2013 — 02:07 PM

SIOUX CITY | Coming soon: school bus cameras that capture images of bad drivers?

State Rep. Chris Hall, D-Sioux City, said he plans to submit legislation that would help three districts pay for cameras to capture license plates of people illegally passing stopped buses. The devices are typically installed near bus stop arms.

Hall said the goal is to see if cameras have any impact on dangerous motorists and would make sense on more buses.

“This is legislation at its best,” Hall said. “Does it decrease the number of violations? Does it make people aware of the law?”

The pilot program would cost the state about $15,000. It would cover half the costs of cameras, with the school district covering the rest. The participating school districts have not been selected.

The legislation comes after a Jan. 4 state Department of Education report found that similar cameras deter motorists from passing stopped buses. The report also found that found 65 percent of people ticketed for illegally passing a stopped school bus do not pay the minimum $250 fine.

Sioux City schools Superintendent Paul Gausman said he has talked to Hall about participating, but he's concerned about costs. The district has 54 buses, none of which have stop-arm camera. Cameras can cost at least $550.

“We are in a situation where we cannot take any additional unfunded mandates from the Legislature,” Gausman said. “If the state is going to require us to use cameras, we request that they fund them.”

The bill could use stop-arm fines to pay for the cost of installing cameras.

Under the current system, bus drivers have to write down the license plate number and details about the car before police will issue a ticket. That’s not as strong as photographic evidence, Hall said.

“I know the process is cumbersome,” Hall said. “The driver is focused on getting that kid safely to the curb, not on pulling out their notebook.”

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