Cameras have caught more than 100,000 speeding drivers on Staten Island


By Vincent Barone, SI Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Since the city launched its speed camera program last year, 106,483 speeding drivers have been issued violations on Staten Island.

The Department of Transportation held a press conference earlier this week, announcing that it had finished installing its 100 fixed and 40 mobile school zone speed cameras, as allowed by state law, just in time for the new school year.

“Speed cameras do protect lives,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said at the press conference. “Speeding is the leading cause of fatal crashes.”

(Nearly one in three people killed in New York City traffic is killed by a speeding driver, according to the DOT.)

Trottenberg added that the cameras not only curb speeding around the city’s schoolchildren, but also serve as a deterrent for reckless drivers of the city.

The cameras used in the program, an integral component to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative, have doled out a total of about 780,000 tickets since January 2014.

At $50 dollars per ticket, that’s $39 million in violations documented during the program’s run — $5.3 million coming from speeders on Staten Island.

Generally, there are two camps on speed cameras: one that considers the cameras a good way to cut down on traffic deaths and another, comprised of Staten Islanders and some in Queens — the suburban, car-dependent areas of the city — that view the cameras as a revenue-generating scheme.

Staten Island, which is home to about 6 percent of the city’s population, has collected about 13.6 percent of city speed camera tickets. Though not all summonsed drivers reside in the borough.

City officials deny that the cameras are about revenue and insist that they would prefer to collect nothing from the cameras.

Critics have also voiced concerns that the cameras, which ticket drivers who travel more than 10 miles above the posted speed limit, are operating outside of legally permitted hours. Cameras can only operate from one hour before and after school is open, including from one hour before and after any school event.

“Cameras were giving out tickets at the end of August, after summer school was over,” said Michael Reilly, president of the borough’s Community Education Council. “But there could have been events going on. The real problem is that there is no clear legal definition of a school day.”

Others have stated that, if the program was truly about saving lives, the city would have installed the full number of cameras in a hastier fashion.

At the conference, Trottenberg said that the time was needed for careful spread of the program. She added that the DOT coordinated with schools individually on operating hours.

Her team, she said, rolled out the program in a “very thoughtful, careful and data driven way.”

“They painstakingly reviewed each school zone in the city, identifying the ones that were particularly dangerous, that had a history of crashes and speeding,” said Trottenberg. “They also carefully coordinated with each school to ensure that the cameras were operating within the legally permitted hours.”

Reilly, who says he advocates for traffic safety, said it’s important to keep the city in check.

“These camera were meant to be supplements to enforcement,” Reilly said. “In order for the DOT to maintain integrity of the program, we need to make sure its following the law and that there’s no overreach.”

The city said it will need at least another two years to find correlation between a decrease in summonses and a decrease in traffic injuries.

“We’re going to need another two years to be able to track the injuries and fatalities,” Trottenberg said. “In other jurisdictions that have done this for longer than we have, we do see a corresponding reduction in crashes and injuries, but we’re still early enough in our program that we don’t have that data yet.”

Advance reporter Anna Sanders contributed to this report.

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Mike Parker: As the school year opens, be watchful for school buses


By Mike Parker, Columnist,


If we look carefully at the statistics, we find school buses are one of the safest forms of transportation. In fact, a study published in 2008 by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that examined 414,399 fatal crashes since 1998 demonstrated only 1,409 were school-related crashes — less than one-half of one percent of all fatalities.

But despite that reassuring statistic, the fact is every person who dies is 100-percent dead. When the victim is a child, we move from sadness and regret to a genuine sense of tragedy.

Sometimes distracted drivers are the culprit. Sometimes, a lapse in judgment sends people to the hospital or morgue. How does anyone miss a big yellow bus with flashing lights?

We have all observed someone pass a school bus that has stopped, its lights flashing, extending the stop arm. That blatant disregard for safety angers me. Do people really think that until that stop arm is fully extended, they are free to dart around the bus? What if some eager child begins to cross the street before the arm is completely extended and a car comes zooming around?

The laws in North Carolina are specific about stopping for school buses. On a two-lane road, traffic in both directions must stop when a school bus stops. On a two-lane road with a turning lane, all traffic must stop for the school bus. The same law applies to four-lane highways without turning lanes. Traffic in both directions must stop.

Any driver on a four-lane road that has a turning lane and is following in the same direction as a school bus must stop. The same rule applied to highways with four lanes or more with a median. Only traffic following in the same direction of the bus must stop.

The law on stopping for a school bus is clear.

GS 20-217 a. provides “When a school bus is displaying its mechanical stop signal or flashing red lights and the bus is stopped for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, the driver of any other vehicle that approaches the school bus from any direction on the same street, highway, or public vehicular area shall bring that other vehicle to a full stop and shall remain stopped. The driver of the other vehicle shall not proceed to move, pass, or attempt to pass the school bus until after the mechanical stop signal has been withdrawn, the flashing red stoplights have been turned off, and the bus has started to move.”

Violating this law earns the driver a Class 1 misdemeanor and a minimum fine of $500. If injury or death follows the infraction, then penalties mushroom.

Still, should we need a law to instruct us in what is essentially common sense? Who does not understand that when the stop arm is out and the lights are flashing, drivers must stop? I suggested last year that we should equip the stop-arms of school buses with cameras — fore and aft — to photograph those who decide to race around a stopped bus.

Last Monday, the first day of school, my daughter-in-law posted a photo of Alex, 6, and Isaiah, 8, standing at the end of their driveway waiting for the school bus. The photo is a beautiful shot capturing the backs of two little boys framed against the Jones County farmland across the street from their home.

As lovely as the photo was, what immediately crossed my mind was this prayer:

“Lord, keep those little boys safe as they ride that bus.”

Today I pray that prayer for all our children. May we not have a single child injured or killed because someone decides a text message, a phone call, a radio station or running late for work is worth doing something criminal — and deadly.

Mike Parker is a columnist for The Free Press

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Bill allows camera enforcement of NC bus safety law


By Emma Wright, WNCN News

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – State lawmakers will decide on a new bill that would allow school bus surveillance video to be used in tracking down vehicles that pass stopped school buses in North Carolina.

“Parents, when they put their children on those buses every morning, they have an expectation of safety,” said Sen. Tom McInnis, (R) Richmond County.

A judiciary committee is scheduled to talk about the bill Wednesday to enforce bus stop-arm violations. The bill was previous approved by a Senate judiciary committee and now must be approved by a House committee before it can move forward.

Lawmakers are hoping the new bill will make it easier to charge drivers who refuse to stop for school bus stop-arms.

If passed, drivers won’t be the only ones punished. The vehicle’s registered owner would face a $500 fine and be subject to a $100 late fee if the ticket is not paid on time.

“I’m still concerned about the steep price of the fine and that this is a revenue generating proposal,” said Sen. Angela Bryant, (D) District 4.

Under the bill, money collect from the fines would be shared between the companies that install the cameras and the school systems.

The bill will be discussed Wednesday and needs to be passed in the House before it’s a step closer to becoming law.

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Cumberland County students head back to class Tuesday


By Nate Rodgers, WNCN News


FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Students in Cumberland County are heading back to class Tuesday and new measures are in place to ensure students get to and from school safely.

About 445 school buses will hit the road Tuesday in Cumberland County and close to 27,000 students will ride the bus to school every day.

Last year, the county had eight violators caught on camera passing a stopped school bus. Some school bus drivers say it’s their daily fear that a child will be hit.

“The state I used to drive for, I was dropping off or picking up, I was at a stop sign and this person drove their car underneath my bus, and I don’t know God was with him, he jump out of the car, ran, call the police and say his car was stolen,” said Ruby Spann, Cumberland County bus driver.

This year however, bus drivers will use a “thumps up” signal advising students when it’s safe to cross the street.

“When the driver sees all the traffic is clear, and the kids see the traffic is clear, the driver will give them a ‘thumb up’ and an arrow, meaning cross the road and the crossing arm will come out,” said Ale Miller, executive director of transportation for Cumberland County.

At least five Cumberland County school buses will have extended stop arms stretching at least six feet from the bus into the opposite lane.

Miller says the district is lucky they haven’t had any fatal accidents and then hope the new efforts will help keep kids safe.

Cumberland County parents are also hoping for a safe school year.

“I’m looking forward for a safe successful school year. I’m looking forward for some growth, not only for Mikayla but for all students in Cumberland County,” said Rosalyn Hinton.

Hinton’s daughter Mikayla is a 5th grader.

With the first day of school, many kids were excited to get back to class and to hang out with friends.

“I’m excited about learning and just hanging out with my friends at recess,” said Kaygan Draughon, 3rd grader, Van Story Hills Elementary.

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School Bus Cameras Increase Convictions


By WLOS Staff


BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. — The percentage of motorists convicted of illegally passing Buncombe County school buses has shot up over the last year.

The district began installing cameras on the sides of the buses last year, and officials now say the rate of convictions, for drivers who pass while students are boarding has gone up from 25 to 50 percent.

Before the cameras, bus drivers often weren’t able to write down the license plates when drivers sped past, but now the cameras can capture video and data about the make, model and even profile of the driver. The information has helped authorities win convictions in court.

The North Carolina Department of Transportation says that about 3,000 drivers pass schools buses illegally every day in the state.

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Police boost school zone presence for back to school


By Justin Sayers, The Republic/


Police departments in the West Valley are increasing the presence of officers around schools in an annual effort to remind drivers to be extra cautious when driving around children.

Six departments in the West Valley — El Mirage, Glendale, Goodyear, Peoria, Surprise and Tolleson — said they will be increasing enforcement in some capacity. This not only includes stricter law enforcement, but also aiding with pickups and drop-offs and working with schools and parents to promote safety techniques.

The departments said the efforts are aimed at keeping children safe by raising awareness of the dangers of mixing pedestrian, vehicle and bicycle traffic.

“Children have a mind of their own and might just run out into traffic; you just never know,” said Sgt. Obed Gaytan, spokesman for the Tolleson Police Department. “Anytime you’re dealing with children, we as adults always have the greater responsibility to ensure their safety, no matter whose children they are.”

The importance of school zone safety is part of an annual state-wide push from the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety to promote safety in and around schools, said Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Director Alberto Gutier. The department gave out more than $5.2 million in grants to 131 organizations around the state last year for school safety programs.

Starting this year, they gave $250,000 in grants to departments in metro Phoenix for school zone, school bus and crossing safety programs, Gutier said. The money also covers overtime pay for extra enforcement around schools.

“We have to protect these children as much as we protect ourselves — that’s important to us,” he said.

Violations of school zone, school bus, crossing safety and other safety laws could result in fines of up to $500.

In the West Valley, both Glendale and Peoria Police Departments received grants for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins in October, Gutier said.

The Peoria Police Department received a grant, but officials won’t know the exact amount until next year, Officer Isabel Wolfe, a spokeswoman for the department, said. They plan to use the money for overtime pay for increased enforcement.

The Glendale Police Department received a $40,000 grant through the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety’s Safe Traffic Enforcement Program, Sgt. David Vidaure, a spokesman, said. The grant period runs from fall to fall.

They plan to use the money to increase the number officers around school zones, enforce school zone speed limits and crosswalk safety rules, and make sure children are secured in car seats and safety belts, according to a department release.

“It allows us to beef up the number of officers that are specifically targeting school zones for those times that are busy,” Vidaure said. “We really want people to know that we’re serious when it comes to the safety of our kids.”

The Glendale Police Department doesn’t do any in-school training for students about public safety. That burden typically falls on the school districts.

In the Glendale Elementary School District, schools go over safety details with students and parents during the first few weeks of school, said spokesman Jim Cummings. The district also includes a section about school zone safety in student handbooks.

Cummings said the response from drivers in the Glendale area has been great. “The area is well-marked and well-followed,” he said.

The only area of concern was on 67th Avenue just north of Missouri Avenue around William C. Jack Elementary School and Don Mensendick School, Cummings said. He estimated there was at least one accident a year at that intersection, including times where cars went through the chainlink fences.

While no kids were hurt in any of the accidents, the school petitioned for a grant to install a stoplight at the intersection and lower the speed limit, he said. They were able to redo the intersection about a year ago.

“Our fences are good but not that good — they won’t stop a car,” he said.

Cummings praised the Glendale Police Department’s enforcement in the school district, which encompasses 18 schools in the area.

“The Glendale (Police Department) has always been good,” he said. “You don’t want to be caught breaking a school zone law. … They’re doing a good job and we’re grateful for it.”

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In NC, few drivers found guilty of passing school buses



By WRAL Staff

— Each day, about 3,000 vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses in North Carolina, putting children’s lives in danger, according to research by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

Last year, nearly 1,300 drivers in the state went to court for passing a school bus. Of those, only 379 drivers, or 29 percent, were found guilty of the charge, which carries a $500 fine and five points on a driver’s license.

When can you not pass a school bus? Find out in the N.C. school bus stop law.

School systems across the state have started using cameras to catch drivers, but WRAL Investigates found that still might not be enough to turn charges into convictions.

Many say the problem is in the courtroom. The initial cameras on buses only caught a driver’s license plate. North Carolina is one of 14 states in the country where a license plate number is not enough to prosecute a driver. Instead, the driver must be identified.

That’s a tougher standard than getting nabbed on a toll road, where a license plate number is enough to bill drivers. People can only get out of paying by submitting a signed legal document identifying someone else as the driver.

That standard is having a negative impact on conviction rates for passing stopped school buses. Last year, only 10 counties in the state convicted 50 percent or more of the drivers charged with passing a stopped bus, including Wake, Durham, Orange and Johnston counties.

In 2013, state lawmakers strengthened the penalties for drivers who blow by stopped buses. Now, state Rep. Nelson Dollar, R-Wake, is sponsoring legislation to hold drivers more accountable. Like a toll road, the bill puts more burden on the vehicle owner.

“It’s your car. You are responsible for that car,” Dollar said. “The purpose of this bill is to ensure that we can get those convictions.”

Cumberland County and others are now installing more comprehensive camera systems.

“(We have) one camera here that’s pointing towards the front of the bus. Directly underneath the stop arm here, there’s a camera that’s pointing out, capturing the picture of the driver and seeing who the driver of the vehicle is,” said Charles Bell, Cumberland County Schools’ transportation director.

The goal is to hold more offenders responsible.

“The courts will have the evidence and they will be convicted, and they’re going to think twice about speeding around a stopped school bus and putting our children in danger,” Dollar said.

According to the state Department of Public Instruction, 7 percent of school buses across the state have multiple camera systems installed so far.


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