7 stop-arm violations in 14 school days

Source:  http://www.spencerdailyreporter.com/story/2230453.html

By Hanna Russman, Daily Reporter

9/11/15

It is the worse start to a school year that Spencer Schools Transportation Director Julie Nemmers can remember in terms of school bus safety. Since school started Aug. 24, seven stop-arm violations have been reported and recorded by Spencer school bus drivers and their bus cameras.

“Thank heavens we have the cameras in all of our buses,” Nemmers said. “When a bus driver witnesses a violation we can download the video and can see it happen. We take a snapshot of the driver and their car and report it to law enforcement. They also watch the video and then issue a citation to the owner of the vehicle.”

According to Nemmers, the videos from the school bus camera shows distracted driving as a major factor. The stop-arm violators so far have been men and women of varying ages.

“We can see when they are texting or making a call in the video,” Nemmers explained. “Other violators treat the stop arm like a stop sign where they stop or slow down and then continue past the bus if they think it is clear to go.”

“Most of the time these cars don’t even stop,” Spencer Police Chief Mark Warburton said. “Or, they don’t realize their mistake until it is too late. People are trying to do as much as they can during their mundane everyday drives to work which is causing people to be distracted. Driving needs to be made the priority when you are in a vehicle. Driving is not a time to multitask.”

Drivers are encouraged to be on the lookout for busses now that the school year is in full swing. They should be aware of their responsibilities when they encounter one of the long-yellow vehicles that may be dropping off or picking up children.

“School bus drivers must put on their yellow flashers 300 feet before they stop to signal to drivers they will be stopping,” Nemmers explained. “The red flashing light goes on when the bus is stopped and the stop arm, that flashing stop sign on the side of the bus, goes out. Drivers behind the bus must stop and can’t go around the bus while the stop arm is out. Drivers approaching the bus from the opposite direction must stop and cannot continue until the stop arm is retracted. A violation occurs when drivers pass a bus when the stop arm is out.”

Those who are cited for a stop-arm violation face severe penalties under Kadyn’s Law.

“Kadyn’s Law was named after Kadyn Halverson who was running to get onto her bus on a county highway that ran past her house and was killed when she was hit by a driver who failed to stop for the bus,” Iowa State Trooper Vince Kurtz, ISP safety education officer, said. “Kadyn’s Law enhanced the penalties for violators of the stop arm law.”

Kurtz explained a first-time offender of the law faces a fine of up to $750, 30 days suspended license and the possibility of 30 days in jail.

“These are very serious violations, and they come with serious consequences,” Kurtz said. “Most people don’t realize how important the stop-arm law is until it is too late, And by too late, I mean after a child is hit, injured or even killed. We are fortunate that there haven’t been more Kadyn Halverson incidents in Iowa, but it is only a matter of time.”

The Spencer School District has been fortunate to not have had any accidents as a result of stop-arm violations this year or in the past, but it can only last so long.

“Our luck is going to run out one of these days,” Nemmers said. “We have had a few close calls, but our bus drivers are doing their best to keep kids safe. My fear is that someone will go through a stop arm and hit, injure or kill a student. Our students safety is my top priority, and that is what I am working to do.”

According to Amy Sievers, driver’s license supervisor with the Iowa DOT, bus safety is an emphasized component of driver’s education.

“The teenagers should be more aware of the school bus laws because we do a lot with it in driver’s ed,” Sievers said. “I come in and talk about the consequences of violating the stop-arm law. I am at a loss though on what more we can do to stop these violations. It is not just teens who are violators. We need to reach the adults too.”

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Drivers who pass stopped school buses hard to convict, Cumberland Co. officials say

Source:  http://wncn.com/2015/09/08/drivers-who-pass-stopped-school-buses-hard-to-convict-cumberland-co-officials-say/

By Nate Rodgers, WNCN.com

9/8/15

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) – Cumberland County school buses captured eight vehicles passing a stopped bus on camera last year.

But transportation officials said current laws make it hard to convict violators of the offense.

“I had two buses last week that were hit, the stop arm was hit,” said Al Miller of Cumberland County Schools Transportation.

Miller said current laws require a law enforcement officer to see a vehicle pass a stopped school bus.

Video evidence can help but the driver’s face must be visible in the footage.

Miller said weather can interfere with how current camera systems work.

Two school buses in Cumberland County have three cameras each.

This first camera is intended to capture the license plate as the car rides past the stopped bus.

A second camera is aimed at the windshield and a final camera shoots through the passenger side window.

Currently, lawmakers are discussing a bill that would fine the owner of the car, after it’s caught on camera passing a stopped bus.

The drivers face would not have to be shown.

As for the eight violators already caught on video? It is up for the court to decide.

“We thought the cases were good but once the judge and attorneys get to them, I don’t know,” Miller said.

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

Source: http://www.silive.com/news/index.ssf/2015/09/cameras_have_caught_more_than.html

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

Source: http://www.kinston.com/article/20150831/NEWS/150839943

By Mike Parker, Columnist, Kinston.com

8/31/15

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

Source: http://wncn.com/2015/08/26/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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