Prince George OKs cameras to catch school bus passers
By Blake Belden, Staff Writer
Nov 20, 2013, 12:08
PRINCE GEORGE — Prince George drivers who speed by school buses at bus stops will soon be ticketed through the use of a surveillance camera attached to the bus in hopes of increasing the safety of students getting on and off of buses.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a new video monitoring ordinance on Wednesday night that includes the installation of cameras on all county school buses for the purpose of enforcing a $250 civil fine for bypassers at bus stops.
County Administrator Percy Ashcraft is currently formulating a contract with Redflex Student Guardian, after which the cameras will be installed and a public awareness program will be implemented before the county officially issues any tickets with the cameras.
Cameras will be installed on the driver’s side, stop sign arm of each school bus, and will be activated each time that the school bus comes to a complete stop and once the arm is fully extended.
Tickets will be mailed to the owner of the vehicle in violation, after which several options are available.
If the owner is the violator, they may choose to make the payment in full compliance with the ticket. If the driver of the vehicle is not the owner of the car, this includes rental car companies, the owner can nominate the driver who was in violation, get it notarized and have the ticket sent to the proper individual. A third option is to challenge the violation and face the accuser in court, according to the representative for Redflex Student Guardian who spoke at the board meeting.
Each violator will be able to go online and view three pictures taken of the offense: a picture taken just before they pass the stop arm, a picture taken after they pass the stop arm and a close-up picture of the vehicle’s license plate, the representative said.
All of the money earned from these penalties will be split between Redflex Student Guardain, who installs and maintains the equipment, and the county, whose $85 from each violation will go directly to the School Board to be used as exclusive funding for school bus related purchases, said Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Robertson.
“Hopefully we won’t get enough to purchase a tire, but regretfully, from what we’ve seen in the trial period, there are more people passing school buses than we’d like to think,” Robertson said.
During a recent trial period to see if the cameras would be a worthwhile county expense, cameras were installed on three school buses in the county for a month, during which 17 violations were reported, the representative said.
This number is significantly less than the 69 violations reported during Hopewell’s trial period.
There are 15 jurisdictions in Virginia, including Hopewell, Chesterfield and Petersburg, that have already gone through the same trial program and furthered contracts with Student Guardian, according to the representative.
This new ticketing program will be enforced by student resource officers so as not to diminish the existing responsibilities of Prince George police officers whose presence is necessary on the streets, said police chief Ed Frankenstein.
“The SROs are already working with the school system very well and we just think that’s another good partnership,” Frankenstein said.
Community member Mr. Webb, who is in favor of the ordinance, urged the board at Wednesday’s meeting that, because of county roads and house locations where bus routes might include several stops within a short distance, it is imperative to inform the public precisely how the new cameras work, otherwise “you’re going to have a bunch of people out there hitting the brake, panicking, and they could actually cause an accident.”