WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WNCN) – Two years after state legislators passed a bill allowing school districts to better protect kids at bus stops, CBS 17 Investigates Team discovered local schools districts are not taking full advantage of the opportunity. The law deals with automated cameras on school buses.
Parents we spoke to were concerned about why this program is so far behind, including Angela Hobbs. Her 11-year-old daughter fell while running across the street to get on her school bus.
“When I got that text and that call from her that was horrible to think my daughter is sitting there bleeding and it’s supposed to be somewhere safe. That I should have been able to leave her without a problem,” said Angela Hobbs.
Her daughter broke her nose, scrapped her face and bruised parts of her body.
“She said one time we [the students] did see a car go by and sometimes it looks like the cars aren’t going to stop and so that worried me,” stated Hobbs.
Students wait for the bus on Brier Leaf Lane. Then they have to cross the street to board the bus. Hobbs asked the Wake County School District to change the location of the stop so the students would not have to cross the street.
But the district denied her request.
“The reason I’m speaking up is because it’s not just her life I’m concerned about, it’s future children,” exclaimed Angela Hobbs .
In an effort to make bus stops safer, Governor Cooper signed a bill into law in 2017. This allowed automated safety cameras on school buses that would work much like red light cameras. When the stop arm of a school bus comes out and flashing lights turn on, so would the camera.
In response that same year, Wake County Commissioners approved a resolution supporting the law and asked the school district how they would address it. But two years later, CBS 17 has learned that the program is not operating as originally designed.
According to Wake County Schools, out of the 756 buses used daily by WCS only 15 of them have working stop arm cameras. The cameras don’t work automatically like the red-light program. CBS 17’s Felicia Bolton spoke with Wake County Schools about how the program currently works.
“When the bus driver makes a complete bus stop. With the stop arm out and if they saw violation occurs they will press a button on their panel and that triggers a time stamp and it will lock that video,” said Director of Central Operations , Logistics and Systems Jeff Tsai.
Once the bus is back in a school parking lot with WI-FI, that video is loaded onto a server and the bus driver still has to notify their supervisor of the possible violation. The video is then reviewed and given to law enforcement.
CBS 17 Investigates discovered Wake County isn’t alone. Durham Public Schools, Cumberland County Schools and Johnston County Schools all have fewer cameras than buses. None of the camera systems operate automatically.
A key piece of the 2017 legislation emphasized making the stop-arm citations automatic. That has not happened. Until it does, Tsai says catching a driver illegally passing is nearly impossible task that falls on the bus driver.
“Next to impossible to do when the bus driver has so many other responsibilities at a bus stop,” said Jeff Tsai .
Wake County Schools says officials put the project out for bids 2 years ago. But the proposals submitted were not practical to implement. The district is still however looking for solutions.
For more on the stop arm cameras, click here.