WCSD Continues to Fit Exterior Cameras On School Buses
After about two years of testing exterior cameras on its school buses, the Washoe County School District decided to continue installing them more than one year ago. Since then, officials say they have seen an improvement in safety.
After about two years of testing exterior cameras on its school buses, the Washoe County School District decided to continue installing them more than one year ago. Since then, officials say they have seen an improvement in safety. The cameras record what happens when the buses are stopped to pick up or drop off kids. Bus drivers say most drivers are courteous and obey the law, but not everyone.
"Every now and then, you'll encounter an individual that is running late and on their own agenda," Jon Wilson, WCSD Bus Driver said. "They'll blow your stop signs with very little regard to the students crossing the road."
Officials say most violations happen when drivers are impatient.
"If they're unloading a lot of children, it takes a little bit of time and unfortunately sometimes people get a little bit impatient and somebody will go around them or try to go around them while they're unloading those students," Rick Martin, Director of Transportation for WCSD said.
It is estimated that 13 million American drivers illegally passed parked buses in 2015, and an average of eight children are killed each year, after being hit by a car near the bus stop. There have not been any incidents in Washoe County, but Martin says the exterior cameras have made drivers think twice before passing a bus.
"People, when they notice them, they're following up and obeying the laws a little more and it's helped us in certain situations in finding violations of people passing," Martin said.
Seventy school buses already have cameras. That is about 20% of the 343 buses in the school district. The plan is to eventually have them on all school buses.
"We'll continue to keep moving forward and purchasing as many as we can, as we can," Martin said.
"I don't think it will make people stop but I certainly hope it forces them to slow down and reconsider what they're about to do," Wilson said.
When a bus parks, stop signs flip out on the side and red lights begin to flash. Drivers are required to stop, regardless which side of the road they are on and which direction they are traveling. Wilson says he has witnessed many drivers disobey the laws, including one in Sparks, Thursday morning.
"I had one student in the process of crossing the road and somebody blew my stop signs on my left side," Wilson said. "I'm liable for the well-being of everyone of these kids. So, as a bus driver, as a father and a grandparent, it makes me very frustrated."
"They care about their children," Martin said. "They don't want to see any of them get hurt and unfortunately, if that continues, there could be a day that that could happen and none of them want to see that."
The buses' cameras cannot be used to issue citations in Nevada. They can be turned into the school police, who can issue a warning to the violator. The fine for illegally passing a bus is $250-$500. If a second violation occurs in the next year, or a third one within two years, the driver will lose his or her license.
Wilson says he would like the state legislature to pass a law that would allow a driver to be cited, based on the cameras.
"It's no different than running a red light with pedestrians in the crosswalk," Wilson said.
Austin, Texas has installed cameras on its buses and they can be used to cite drivers. During a four-month period, 6,600 citations were issued.