To help keep students safe as they are getting on or off the bus, Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) added exterior cameras to its buses. These cameras capture pictures and videos of motorists illegally passing when stop arms are extended and red lights are flashing. Images will be reviewed by the Virginia Beach Police Department (VBPD) and can result in $250 citations for the drivers at fault.
Under Virginia Code, drivers approaching a school bus may not pass if the bus’s stop-arm is extended or its red lights are flashing. Even if the red lights have only begun flashing and the stop-arm is not fully yet extended, drivers are still required to stop until all students have finished loading or unloading and the school bus is back in motion. An exception to the rule is if a driver’s vehicle is separated from a school bus by a solid barrier or median.
A 2018 National Stop Arm Violation Count survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services revealed that on a single day across 38 states as well as the District of Columbia, 83,944 vehicles passed school buses illegally. Those results point to more than 15 million violations across the span of a school year.
“This is a national problem, and if we can do something to prevent a single tragedy we will,” said VBCPS Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence. “We hope that no citations are issued. We hope that motorists choose to always stop. It only takes a minute or so out of a driver’s time for children to get on or off the bus safely.”
The cameras are activated by sensors when a bus’s stop-arm is deployed. The camera can detect a vehicle passing in any direction and capture license plates as well as the vehicle’s GPS location.
In this first phase of camera implementation, 100 VBCPS buses were equipped with cameras. VBCPS and the VBPD will monitor the program to evaluate the system and determine whether additional personnel is needed before a second round of additional cameras is installed.
“If needed, other school buses will be outfitted with cameras,” said VBCPS Executive Director of Transportation David Pace. “However, our hope is that we don’t need additional cameras because motorists are stopping to keep students safe.”
This camera installation has been made possible thanks to the division’s ongoing partnership with the City of Virginia Beach and the VBPD.