Our View: Support stop-arm camera legislation, prioritize kids’ safety on buses

Published 9:43 am Friday, August 16, 2019

In recent weeks we’ve run several editorials warning motorists about the importance of care and caution required to make sure students remain safe as they return to school this month. In those editorials we have touched on the importance of adhering to laws regarding stopping for school buses.

In our Aug. 10-11 weekend edition, reporter Lashana Harney took a closer look at why these laws are important, as local officials called on motorists to keep in mind what is at stake if they don’t follow these rules.

Harney reported that Clark County Public Schools transports about 3,500 students daily during the school year, averaging nearly 4,114 miles per day.

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According to KRS 189.370, passing a stopped school or church bus is prohibited.

“If any school or church bus used in the transportation of children is stopped upon a highway for the purpose of receiving or discharging passengers, with the stop arm and signal lights activated, the operator of a vehicle approaching from any direction shall bring his vehicle to a stop and shall not proceed until the bus has completed receiving or discharging passengers and has been put into motion,” the law states.

The stop requirement does not apply to vehicles approaching a stopped bus from the opposite direction upon a highway of four or more lanes, which Transportation Supervisor Danny Fisher said would never happen in Winchester.

If any vehicle is witnessed to be in violation and the identity of the operator is not otherwise apparent, it shall be a rebuttable presumption that the person in whose name the vehicle is registered or leased was the operator of the car at the time of the alleged violation and is subject to the penalties, the law states.

Observers on 2,667 Kentucky school buses recorded 728 illegal passes during this year’s annual national count of unlawful school bus passes.

Nationally, observers recorded 83,944 illegal passes of 108,623 buses in 38 states during the survey, which is coordinated by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services.

Clark County Public Schools transportation officials said many of the illegal passing violations in Winchester happen on Lexington Avenue, which prompted CCPS to install an additional camera on the bus that takes that route.

Two buses have the advanced camera system that captures the license plate number of violators. But Fisher told The Sun illegal passing is getting to the point where he plans to take the issue up with the Clark County Board of Education, hoping to install a camera system on the entire fleet.

A recently proposed law would require all school buses to be equipped with cameras that would record motorists who selfishly and illegally pass buses that are stopped.

The bill would require stop arm cameras be installed on all school buses in Kentucky by 2023.

Adding these cameras would allow officials to hold these drivers who ignore the stop signs and flashing red lights accountable for endangering children and other drivers.

The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Robert Goforth, said a dozen school districts already use stop-arm cameras.

The bill would place the cameras on about 10,000 buses in the Commonwealth, he said.

Drivers caught on camera passing a stopped bus would face $200 tickets for the first violation. The second and further violations within three years would cost $500.

We support such a law.

Of course, the question is from where the money would come.

As Goforth has proposed, fines generated by citations could help offset the cost.

We think the price would be a small one to pay considering the added safety it could provide for the thousands of children who are getting on and off buses.

And, while we’re at it, here’s our reminder to follow the law regarding school buses. Buses usually board and unload quickly, so it’s a short time to wait for the security of knowing you will not be the cause of injury or worse to a child.