The Marysville School District in Washington state is turning to technology to catch drivers who are illegally passing stopped school buses.
The district has installed cameras on its buses that are designed to deter drivers from passing stopped school buses that are picking up or dropping off children.
The program officially kicked off May 1, with violators facing a $419 ticket.
"I think it's a fantastic idea. I think it's a long time needed," said Marysville school bus driver Jenny Lagadinos. "The people in traffic need to be aware that yellow school buses are loading and unloading kids and to be safe around them. That's our primary goal."
Lagadinos said she sees drivers disregard the flashing lights on her bus nearly every day when she's dropping kids off along her route.
Here's how the cameras work: When a bus’ stop arm is deployed, the camera starts recording if it detects a car illegally passing the stop arm in either direction. The camera takes video and still images of the driver's car, which are then reviewed by law enforcement for approval, prior to a citation being issued.
Monday May 1 starts MPD's enforcement of school bus stop paddle violations caught on camera. Tickets are $419. pic.twitter.com/IXNpuI51Xb— Marysville Police (@MarysvilleWAPD) May 1, 2017
To help Marysville drivers get accustomed to the program, there was a grace period during the month of April in which the cameras were operating, but offenders received a warning instead of a ticket.
Marysville Police say there were 42 violations during that time period.
"Our goal is to educate and awaken drivers to the dangers of illegally passing school buses," said Marysville School District Transportation Supervisor Kim McAbee. "Some Washington drivers are not educated on school bus stop laws in our state and are unintentionally putting our students' lives in danger. Keeping our children safe if our No. 1 priority. We want to change drivers' behavior in a positive way to protect the lives of the children who ride a school bus to and from school every day."
The School Bus Stop Arm Safety Initiative is done through a partnership with American Traffic Solutions. The program actually doesn't cost Marysville taxpayers a dime.
American Traffic Solutions provides the cameras to the school district for free, in exchange for a portion of the money collected from those $419 fines. The Marysville Police Department also gets a small portion of that money.
The rest goes back to the Marysville School District, to be used for programs related to school safety - though district leaders stress that it's not about money, it's about keeping kids safe.
15 MSD busses are outfitted w/ cameras. In the test period starting April 1 we had 42 violation. Be cautious. pic.twitter.com/UE5f8eREag— Marysville Police (@MarysvilleWAPD) May 1, 2017
This technology is already being used by the Highline, Bethel, and Mercer Island School Districts, according to American Traffic Solutions. In addition, Seattle, Renton, and Bellevue School Districts are currently piloting the program on small numbers of buses.
A spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools said district staff is recommending the school board start using the cameras on a larger scale.
More than 400 children have been killed by drivers passing a stopped school bus over the past four decades, according to the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State University.