Extra eyes installed on Volusia school buses

By Saul Saenz, Reporter
Last Updated: Wednesday, April 25, 2012, 5:34 PM EDT

Volusia County school officials have a new tool to catch stop arm violators – cameras on the side of the bus.

Stop arm violators are drivers who fail to stop when a school bus is boarding or letting students off a bus.

One Volusia school bus on the fleet has three cameras on the driver's side of the bus aimed at capturing the driver's car, the driver and the license tag.

School Transportation Director Greg Akin said the cameras were installed two weeks ago and will be on the bus until the end of the school year gathering information.

State school bus drivers reported 8,900 stop arm violators in a one-day period, while in Volusia that number was 403 on one day last week.

The law states the violations has to be witnessed by a law enforcement officer in order for a citation to be issued.

Volusia Sheriff's deputies held a sting operation pulling over stop arm violators, but only caught a handful.

The cameras are expected to give a clearer picture of a student safety risk.

They would work much the same way red light cameras on intersections do.

The camera captures the violation and sends it to the company running the program -- American Traffic Solutions out of Scottsdale, Ariz.

"We would capture the violation on camera, and then they would verify that and send it to local law enforcement for verification and then issue the ticket at that point in time," Akin said.

Akin said American Traffic Solutions is covering all costs involved in the program, including installation of the cameras at no charge to the school district.

Lawmakers turned down bills in the House and Senate during the last session, which would make the cameras mandatory in all state school buses.

Akin said legislators will try again during the next session using all the information gathered from the cameras.

Donald Mair said cameras on the sides of school buses are long overdue.

Mair is the father of Gabby Mair, who was struck and killed after she stepped off a school bus two years ago in DeBary.

"If something like this would've been in effect like two years ago, it definitely would've saved her cause the cars would've been stopped waiting," Mair said, adding cameras would've captured the image of the car that struck Gabby.

Volusia is one of five counties participating in the pilot program, along with Orange, Brevard, Osceola, Broward and Charlotte counties.

Other states have already passed legislation and are using cameras to catch stop arm violators.