Smile, You’re On The ‘Bus-Cam’

Supervisors OK Plan To Identify Scofflaws

Posted: July 3, 2013

HARRISONBURG — This fall, Rockingham County will roll out a scaled-back version of a plan to equip school buses with cameras to catch drivers who go around them while stopped.

The Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance last week allowing Rockingham County Public Schools to move forward with the project.

Seven to 10 buses will have cameras installed when the program kicks off around the start of the school year.

A public awareness campaign will begin about the same time warning drivers not to be impatient. A pilot program involving cameras on three buses found 126 violations, school officials say.

The county School Board initially proposed putting cameras on 10 percent to 30 percent of its fleet of 205 route buses, officials say, but the number was reduced to make implementing the program easier.

School officials will likely review the program after a year.

“There’s a lot of folks that will be working together, and I think we need to make sure everyone is comfortable before we move too far,” said Bryan Huber, former director of transportation for the school division.

Huber is now principal at Broadway High School, but he continues to work on the camera project.

The division will now advertise for proposals from companies seeking to serve as vendor for the project.

Virginia law allows school divisions to use cameras to catch drivers who disregard the flashing lights and stop sign on stopped buses, but the localities in which they’re located must first adopt an ordinance, County Administrator Joe Paxton said.

RedFlex Traffic System approached Rockingham County Public Schools about the cameras and ran a pilot program for the division from January through the end of the spring semester last month.

RedFlex is expected to be one of the bidders for the project, though the School Board could choose another vendor.

The Board of Supervisors’ decision to back the ordinance didn’t come without trepidation.

The board tabled the ordinance June 12 so supervisors could get more information about how the program would work and to ensure the county wouldn’t be on the hook for costs associated with the camera system, as it’s supposed to pay for itself.

Supervisor Pablo Cuevas, who raised concerns at the June 12 meeting, said he’s comfortable with the program after meeting with school division officials and others.

“My understanding is the school system will work closely with our county administrator and the proper members of staff to make sure this ordinance works to the benefit and safety of our citizens,” Cuevas said.

Here’s how the program works: If a camera records a violation, the footage is sent to the vendor, which fronts the cost of the equipment. The vendor reviews the footage to verify whether a violation occurred.

If one has, it would be forwarded to the Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office for review. The sheriff’s office would issue a citation for $250.

The amount of the fine is set by state law, Paxton said. The vendor would get a cut of the fine, offsetting the cost of the system. The school division receives the rest of the fine.

How the fine would be divvied up would be determined once proposals are received, Paxton said.

County officials are approaching the program cautiously, he added.

“We want it to be successful, and we want the public to have an opportunity to adjust to it, and we want public awareness campaign to work,” Paxton said. “The purpose behind this is not additional income or to ticket people. The intent is to improve safety.”

Contact Jeremy Hunt at 574-6273 or jhunt@dnronline.com



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