Saturday, May 22, 2010

Iowa school bus camera aimed at drivers-AP

The Fort Madison School District, which has cameras on the inside of buses to watch the kids, is now putting cameras on the outside to catch drivers who illegally pass the bus.

It's illegal to pass a school bus when it's slowing down and its yellow lights are flashing and when it stops and the red lights are flashing.

"Some people don't know that. They think it's like a street light. When the yellow light comes on, hit the gas and go through," said Steve Carle, the district's transportation director.

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The district installed the camera on its largest bus, which can carry 89 students, on May 4.

"We average between two to four violators every day," Carle said.

The camera, which cost about $2,300, begins recording when the bus is started. When someone passes the bus illegally, the driver pushes a button that marks the video. The video, which shows the car and the license plate, is reviewed by school officials and the Iowa State Patrol, which can issue a ticket.

Carle said when students see the bus coming, they start walking toward it before it comes to a stop. That's when the violators come flying by and it could cause an accident, he said.

"It's all about safety. That's where I'm hanging my hat," Carle said.

Officials have ordered three more cameras, which are being paid for by a combination of grants, federal economic stimulus funds and school transportation funds.

A ticket for passing a school bus with flashing lights is $195.

Carle said 10 people have been ticketed so far.

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