Friday, August 7, 2020
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More bus cams could curb illegal passing

When the school year begins, a new batch of complaints comes out that motorists disobey stop arms on school buses.

After new data was released last year by the Maryland State Department of Education, data that showed the number of violations was headed downward, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery said, “While we are gratified with the progress being made, we want to emphasize that every student of ours is precious. There are no excuses for this violation.”

MSDE repeated the study in April. This year, a small uptick in the number of violations was observed statewide, but the number went down in Washington County, according to an article in the Herald-Mail.

But studies like this, which rely exclusively on the observations of bus drivers and their ability to report the number of offenders observed on their routes, paint only a partial snapshot of the issue. Police officers aren’t much better at getting an accurate count, since they can’t be everywhere at once.

“That is a significant problem,” the paper quoted Sheriff Douglas Mullendore as saying. “As far as I’m concerned, anybody runs (past) a school bus, that’s a significant problem because it puts our children at risk for serious injury … and death.”

The county is installing 12 new bus cams, which will catch drivers who run past school buses when the stop arm is extended or the bus driver has activated the flashing lights. The cameras have eyes in front and in back to catch drivers passing the bus in either direction.

The company that sells the cameras, American Traffic Solutions, reviews the footage and sends the sheriff’s office video of any potential violations. The office then approves them and sends out citations based on the license plates. The penalty is a $125 fine but no points, Mr Mullendore was quoted as saying.

The National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services publishes a summary of state laws concerning drivers who violate the flashing lights or extended stop arms on school buses:

Maryland: If a school vehicle has stopped on a roadway and is operating the alternately flashing red lights, the driver of any vehicle following or approaching the school vehicle shall: stop at least 20 feet from the rear of the school vehicle, if approaching the school vehicle from its rear; or at least 20 feet from the front of the school vehicle, if approaching the school vehicle from its front. The driver of any vehicle following or approaching the school vehicle may not proceed until the school vehicle resumes motion or the alternately flashing red lights are deactivated. This does not apply to the driver of a vehicle on a physically divided highway.

Illinois: You must stop before meeting or overtaking a school bus loading or unloading passengers on a two-lane roadway. You must remain stopped until the stop signal arm is no longer extended and the flashing lights are turned off or the driver signals you to pass. You do not always need to stop when meeting a stopped school bus on a roadway with four or more lanes or if you are traveling in the opposite direction of the bus, but you should drive cautiously.

Justify or refute the hypothesis that the number of stop arm violations in Maryland was significantly greater in 2014 than in 2013. See Common Core math standards HSS.IC.A-B for more information.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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