Stop-arm cameras help catch lawbreakers, but few WCPSS buses actually have them

Wake County News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – According to leaders at Wake County Schools, bus stop arm cameras are vital tools for bus drivers to catch people breaking the law.

The problem is less than 3 percent of Wake County busses have them. Parents like Xenia Delcid want that changed.

Around 7 a.m. on weekdays, Delcid and her 7-year-old daughter, Jamaely, wait for the school bus. All four of her children ride the bus to and from school. She told CBS 17 she often sees drivers passing the stopped school buses.

“We need to make sure that we are doing everything possible to keep children safe. You know, there’s been plenty of times where I’ve seen cars just go around the bus and keep going,” said Delcid.

Delcid added that of her children’s busses need to be equipped with stop-arm cameras. North Carolina Department of Public Instruction said the cameras record drivers illegally passing stopped school buses. Video from the camera captures the vehicle type, the license plate number, and the person behind the wheel. The school district then gives the video to local law enforcement.

During a one-day, statewide count this past spring, the DPI said school bus drivers witnessed more than 3,000 drivers illegally passing a stopped school bus.

In Wake County, 751 buses were on the roads during that count and 290 drivers passed an active stop arm.

In an attempt to lessen the numbers and make students safer, lawmakers passed a bill in 2017 allowing local school districts to record those who illegally pass a stopped school bus. The system was supposed to operate like Raleigh red-light cameras. But, CBS 17 discovered that out of Wake County’s 950 buses, only 18 of them have the stop-arm cameras.

“It’s the cost. This particular camera system cost about $4,000 per system. And also, we need some financial assistance from the legislature to increase the usage of this,” responded Director of Central Operations and Logistics Jeff Tsai.

Tsai is the Director of Central Operations, Logistics, and Systems for the school district. He said without the stop arm cameras, bus drivers are responsible for catching violators.

“Without it, the bus driver has to identify the make and model of the violating vehicle, the license plate number, and they will have to identify the offending driver in court,” Tsai said. “(It is) next to impossible to do when the bus driver has so many other responsibilities at a bus stop.”

DPI Section Chief for Transportation Services and Spokesperson Kevin Harrison said he would like all buses to have the device, but it’s just not possible.

“There’s limits funding to do everything and that is an attempt to reduce illegal passing. You have to look at whether or not it is cost-effective and if it’s the best things to do,” said Harrison.

For Delcid, she believes more funding should go to protecting children with every tool possible.

“It protects the children. It protects the driver of the other car, and it protects the bus driver, too. Because we expect a lot of the bus driver,” Delcid said.

Declid also wants to see tougher enforcement to hold drivers accountable.

For more on stop-arm cameras, click here.

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