Spring-Ford Uses High Tech to Catch Bus-Passers
ROYERSFORD PA – Drivers who dangerously and illegally speed past school buses stopped to pick up students in the Spring-Ford Area School District are the intended targets of a new external video monitoring system designed to catch perpetrators in the act.
The district announced Wednesday (Sept. 8, 2021) that “automated stop-arm enforcement technology and cloud-managed safety cameras” are being mounted on all 109 buses in the district fleet. The program and the video cameras start rolling live during October, it said.
Statistics on vehicles that pass stopped buses are alarming, according to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services. It annually conducts a one-day count of illegal school bus passing incidents in the U.S. During the 2018 single-day count alone, bus drivers across 38 states reportedly recorded 83,944 incidents.
During the past 50 years, the association reported in a 2019-2020 survey, a total of 707 students have died in loading or unloading accidents that involved school buses and were “caused by a variety of circumstances and errors by passing motorists and school bus drivers.” Many of those fatalities were among children age 9 and younger, it stated. It included incidents caused when a stop-arm was extended.
Spring-Ford’s Board of School Directors in May authorized the district to work with a Virginia-based company, BusPatrol LLC, to modernize the district’s fleet. The company is installing cameras on the “stop arm” that extends from the side of a bus when passengers are loaded or unloaded. It’s also providing the district with technology powered by artificial intelligence to plan routes, issue “civil citations” to offenders, and coordinate enforcement efforts with local police agencies.
Limerick Police Lt. Robert Matalavage described the system Tuesday (Sept. 7) to the township Board of Supervisors, and praised both the visual evidence it produces and results that indicate it tends to reduce repeat offenses. The district and township both receive a percentage of the reported $300 fees that accompanies each citation, which are voluntarily paid by alleged violators.
Using what BusPatrol calls this violator-funded business model, the district is receiving the technology, installation, and maintenance at no cost.
Those who decline to pay could potentially be charged with offenses by police, and risk losing their drivers licenses, Matalavage noted.
In addition to the stop-arm cameras, the district said, the entire Spring-Ford fleet will be outfitted with 360-degree safety cameras and a silent alarm system. They are expected to improve safety on buses, and allow the school district to respond immediately in emergencies.