Cobb votes tonight on fining drivers who go around school buses. Sounds great to me.

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

Cobb will vote tonight on a contract with a private company to ticket and fine drivers who don't stop for school buses. (AJC photo)

UPDATE: Cobb did vote to approve a contract for a private firm to track drivers who go around stopped school buses via cameras and hit them with steep fines.

I hope the Cobb school board votes tonight to become one of the first and largest Georgia districts to allow an a private  company to issue $300 citations to motorists they film driving around stopped school buses.

I am stunned how often I see Georgia drivers darting around stopped buses. I am also stunned how often drivers fly through crosswalks with schoolchildren in them. Visit any metro school and prepare to be outraged by the hordes of drivers barreling through crosswalks and around buses unloading children.

Drivers do not see it as their responsibility to watch for children exiting buses, despite laws requiring they do so.

Nor do Atlanta drivers respect the slower speeds posted in school zones.  In a 41-day test run of a surveillance camera posted in front of Morningside Elementary in Atlanta a few years ago, 917 vehicles per day were recorded traveling more than 10 mph above the speed limit.

If cameras and stiff fines will make drivers think twice about children boarding and exiting school buses, I am all for them. I hope the Cobb board will agree tonight.

According to the AJC:

The company, American Traffic Solutions, will use images from more than 100 cameras the  school system will install o n Cobb school buses to catch the impatient or distracted drivers. After years of relying on flashing lights, a bus arm with a stop sign attached to it and bus driver testimony to issue warnings, several local districts, including Fulton and Fayette counties, also are turning to cameras and hefty fines to deter drivers.

If passed, the Cobb contract will allow American Traffic Solutions to keep up to 75 percent of generated revenue from the citations issued; the company will absorb the cost of the cameras. Cobb police and the school system will split the rest of the generated revenue for administrative costs.

“I watched too many cars pass the school bus while my children got on the bus, ” said Sheri Lewis, a Cobb County parent who helped start Operation Stop Arm, a Cobb County advocacy group. “When you watch that happen, it’s very alarming and scary to think your children are in the street while cars are passing the bus.”

Operation Stop Arm began in 2009 when an elderly woman swerved around a school bus onto a curb and struck and killed a kindergartner who had just exited the bus. “Children are dying all over the nation, ” Lewis said.

If a police officer catches a driver passing a stopped bus, the officer can issue up to a $1,000 moving violation misdemeanor and dock 6 points off the person’s license — 15 points within 24 months can get a driver’s license suspended. The company-issued citations won’t carry points or be reported to the driver’s insurer.

A Cobb pilot program last year, using cameras installed on 102 of the 1,188 buses, caught 871 violators of the law. But because of limits in the law, only warnings were issued that carried no weight. An amendment to the law last year allowed outside vendors to issue citations.

American Traffic Solutions will send the video and an image to the Cobb County Police Department, which will confirm whether it’s a violation. Then, the company will send the vehicle owner a citation along with the picture in the mail. The Cobb County Police Department can force violators to pay up.

Why motorists won’t wait the extra few minutes for a bus to drop off or pick up students confounds Cobb police spokesman Sgt. Dana Pierce, who has stopped several motorists over the years and heard a plethora of excuses.

“Drivers are so involved in talking on the phone or distracted with their stereo or not paying attention to what’s happening in front of them, ” Pierce said.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

31 comments Add your comment

Frankie

July 19th, 2012
11:30 am

Does the camera turn on when the red lights turn on or when the yellow light sturn on…
I have seen to many bus drivers turn on the yellow lights and then as soon as the first kid approaches turn on the red lights…

If your intent is to pick up childrn as soon as you stops the bus the red lights should be on..

The Dixie Diarist

July 19th, 2012
11:32 am

TEACHER HIGH ON FRENCH ROAST!

In many cases, problems are caused by the way people use transportation.

—Georgia, by Elmer D. Williams

Very early in the dang morning! Educators get real jazzed up, too!

Nice smelling, coffeed-up educator on his way to school who knows better gets pulled over by the police going 38 in another school’s 25 mph school zone!

Policeman is literally standing in the middle of the dang road by his bad ass patrol car with a radar gun! Pointing it at my head!

Educator has both hands on the steering wheel so nice policeman can see I don’t have an AK-47 or a Bowie knife! Actually, I do have a Bowie knife, but it’s at home in a drawer!

Policeman says you get a warning today, sir, but a ticket next time, sir! And put on your seatbelt, sir! Wearin’ your seatbelt is the law!

Educator who knows not to speed through another school’s school zone while not wearing his seatbelt, looks the policeman in the eye and barks, Yessir … and speeds away!

http://www.adixiediary.com

Frankie

July 19th, 2012
11:34 am

75% of generated revenue is quite a bit of money…if you just go by theexisitng numbers…

Cobb county could get $250,000 plus out of almost $1,000,000..hummmm, shouldn’t the county get more since the police have to verify it was a violation…

bootney farnsworth

July 19th, 2012
11:42 am

thought that was already the case.

living in an outdated ed system

July 19th, 2012
11:44 am

Why hasn’t this happened until now?? In NJ, they’ve been fining drivers for decades!

STEVE

July 19th, 2012
11:52 am

Why can’t the school system develop the pictures themselves and then forward them to the Cobb Police Dept? Why is it necessary to use an outside vendor and pay them 75% of revenue to do this for them?
Seems to me that they are getting the best of this deal. Oh wait, it’s government, that means there must be payoffs to this company, graft to the politicians and all around bs.

CobbGOPer

July 19th, 2012
11:58 am

Just another revenue raising venture with a veneer of ’safety’ on it.

litt

July 19th, 2012
12:06 pm

Steve @ 11:52.

Because if the government were to run the program it would cost 2 to 3 times the money the fines would return.

JnThree3

July 19th, 2012
12:13 pm

Who in their right mind would let their children get on a school bus anyway? Yikes!

Brandy

July 19th, 2012
12:23 pm

@Steve, That was the original plan (many cameras were installed over the last two years)…but it doesn’t count as a violation unless a police officer OR an agent of the police (i.e. the red light cameras installed by the police department) witness the incident. Cobb installed the cameras and then wasn’t able to enforce the fines, because they don’t have that enforcement power. Not 100% positive the proposed solution solves the on-going legal challenges, but it is a move in the right direction. Just wish it could be done in-house instead of outsourced to a contractor since that doesn’t always seem to go so well…

Lee

July 19th, 2012
12:53 pm

Sorry, another idea made with good intentions but will have numerous unintended consequences. We still have this pesky right to due process of law.

As stated above, there are already numerous laws on the books which provide for criminal penalties and civil remedies for violaters who ignore school zone and school bus laws. While I am a proponent of free enterprise, this is one area that should remain with the constitutional realm of law enforcement.

MANGLER

July 19th, 2012
12:53 pm

People who complain about getting citations for breaking the law infuriate me. You ran the light and had your photo taken … ticket. You passed a stopped school bus with it’s lights flashing – really big ticket. You speed through a school zone or construction because you don’t care to slow down – really big ticket. The day you lose someone because a driver was too distracted, too impatient, or too impaired is the day you change your tune, but by that day it’s too late. You know there are school zones and school busses, and construction zones and red lights. Plan accordingly.

oldtimer

July 19th, 2012
12:57 pm

I think it is a great idea. If you do not want a ticket….dont zoom past. I also think we should put speed cameras in schools zones. Hiring a private company to handle this frees police up for other activites. People in Atlanta just need to slow down!

Lee

July 19th, 2012
1:28 pm

While we’re at it, I also think 100% of the revenue generated by fines and citations should go to the state. There should be a complete disconnect from the enforcement side to the revenue side.

The Deacon

July 19th, 2012
1:34 pm

The police do not dare to make their ticket quota by giving speeding mother’s tickets who are late to school to pick up their children!
If you want to see speeding at ALL schools, hang out about 20 – 30 minutes after school is over and you will see Danica Patrick look a likes moving like they were driving at Atlanta Motor Speedway!
Been there, seen that!
The Deacon

redweather

July 19th, 2012
1:41 pm

Although I obey the law, some of the bus routes require too many stops. I travel LaVista Road outside the perimeter and it seems school children can’t be expected to do more than walk to the end of their street.

Howard Finkelstein

July 19th, 2012
1:45 pm

Perhaps lessons are in need which would teach these children on how to effectively and efficiently board a school bus. I have no intention of sitting 5 minutes waiting for these “schufflers” to grab a seat. Then of course there is always the last 2 or 3 taking their sweet time to get to the bus THEN find a seat.

I will elect to continue to go around school buses.

Atlanta Mom

July 19th, 2012
1:59 pm

I don’t know about your bus drivers, but our would stop the bus, blocking at least half of the opposite lane, making it nearly impossible for a car from either direction to pass the bus. Seems to me all bus drivers should be required to stop that way.
In the mean time, I don’t think $300 is enough. A child’s life is worth much more than that.

Atlanta Mom

July 19th, 2012
2:13 pm

Not so very long ago, if you entered an intersection immediately after the light turned green, you were taking your life into your hands. Red light cameras went in, and behavior changed. Not nearly so many folks run the red these days.
Seems to me these cameras would have the same effect. No one knows which buses have the technology, so the benefit is greater than just 100 cameras.

Lee

July 19th, 2012
2:59 pm

@AtlMom, when the Legislature mandated an increase in the time between the yellow and red lights, there were less people caught running the lights as it gave them more time to stop. This rendered the red light cameras unprofitable and most have been pulled from use.

There are several things school districts could do to reduce the problem. For example, instead of stopping on the main road, they could require drivers to pull into subdivisions and apartment complexes to pick up the kids.

Jerry Eads

July 19th, 2012
6:32 pm

I’m in. More honest revenue than radar speed traps, which was conclusively shown to make ZERO, NADA, NOT ONE IOTA difference in safety – simply a revenue tool. People passing buses kill kids.
Jer

mitch

July 19th, 2012
8:15 pm

I don’t understand why the School District must be involved in a traffic control matter. Where is the Police Dept.

mountain man

July 19th, 2012
8:17 pm

Let’s just remove this “profit motive”. Install the cameras, charge fines enough to pay for them, and put the violators in jail for 30 days. Maybe THAT would get their attention!

mountain man

July 19th, 2012
8:20 pm

“I will elect to continue to go around school buses.”

And I hope your wife is killed by a drunk driver.

catlady

July 20th, 2012
11:35 am

We were in Tallahassee 2 years. Although a lot of driving was lawless, especially running red lights, what you did NOT see was people speeding through school zones. They had a motorcycle cop at every school every morning, and they pulled over folks left and right. Didn’t take too long to break the habit, let me tell you!

Of course, I also think Georgia systems should cease the custom of stopping every 10 feet to pick up kids directly in front of their homes. The bus that comes by my area stops 5 times in 300 feet! There should be some parental responsibility to get kids to certain central pickup areas.

Pride and Joy

July 20th, 2012
6:48 pm

75% is outrageous. We can do it inhouse for a lot less. We don’t have to develop “digital” pictures.

Pride and Joy

July 20th, 2012
6:49 pm

Redweather says “I travel LaVista Road outside the perimeter and it seems school children can’t be expected to do more than walk to the end of their street.”
Redweather, I used to live on Lavista — like many parts of Atlanta — there are no sidewalks.

Pride and Joy

July 20th, 2012
6:51 pm

Lee, you said “There are several things school districts could do to reduce the problem. For example, instead of stopping on the main road, they could require drivers to pull into subdivisions and apartment complexes to pick up the kids.”
Think about it — a school bus would then have to wait for some nice drive to “let them in ” in order for them to get back on the road…that ain’t gonna happen often, which means the childrne would always be late for school…

Forsyth County Mom

July 20th, 2012
10:54 pm

Like a lot of posters, I agree that stronger enforcement is necessary, but, there are not enough officers in each department to have one at every school. And I agree that a 75/25 split is out of line. I don’t know what a better solution is, but from my experience it looks like a strong majority of violators are the parents who drop off & pick up their kids every day. My foot hits the brake when I get to the school zone lights and I go 25 all the way in – usually with another parent 2 feet off my butt, flashing their lights. When they do that, I slow down even more. I’m not gonna let some idiot ( in a hurry because THEY’RE late ) force me to speed through a school zone just because they can’t get going early enough in the morning. Of course, my favorites are the county vehicles I’ve seen speeding through the school zone. I enjoy calling the county offices to turn them in!

Woody

July 21st, 2012
11:53 am

Somehow, ‘protect all the children’ is just not the widespread social value it could be. Even if you were ignorant of the law, I think you would want to not make a stupid move near an operating school bus. If you’re an impatient sourpuss, then you deserve a wakeup call.

Ole Guy

July 21st, 2012
2:59 pm

Let’s try to “learn” something here. There’s absolutely no question that drivers who ignore the common practices of extending safety considerations to pedestrians…be they kids on a bus, cyclists, or just abot anyone afoot anywhere near a throughfare…need to be STUNG; the extent of this sting should know of no bounds. HOWEVER, should not these very same “victims”…kids and adults alike…become acquainted with the concept of SITUATIONAL AWARENESS/of actually glancing about the world in which they find themselves. I’m sure many of you have observed people walking about without once looking just where they’re going; crossing streets; highways, driving through intersections, and, yes, even getting on/off school buses without the slightest perception of anything in their little worlds except SELF.

Sure, burn the sixes of those who disregard stopped school buses, but howbout we start teaching these very kids…you know, the ones who we continually harp over as “being the future” a little responsibility for their own actions.