Local lawmakers, school officials seek change in law for school bus safety

Local

Cameras placed on the outside of school buses are catching drivers who don’t follow the rules of the road, but many people are asking if those cameras are enough.

Many people have reached out to WJHL after a crash Tuesday in which a 10-year-old boy was hit by a car as he was trying to board his school bus. The crash happened on Tennessee Highway 81 South in Washington County. 

The family of 10-year-old Donavon Sampson told us he was released from Niswonger Children’s Hospital after suffering a cracked fibula, cuts and bruises.

While the Elizabethton City School system is moving forward with cameras on the exterior of their bus fleet, police involvement and a change in state law are required to hold drivers accountable.

John Hutchins with Elizabethton City Schools showed WJHL’s Caroline Corrigan footage of a driver ignoring the stop sign.

It’s an incident he said happened on the same day a woman was accused of hitting a 10-year-old boy with her car while he was trying to board his school bus.

“I think about the bus driver in Washington County who saw the car coming, who saw the child attempting to cross the road and there was nothing that they could do, putting a driver in that type of situation, it just makes me sick,” Hutchins said.

In August, Elizabethton City School official began a nearly $48,000 project to replace and install additional security cameras on their buses.

It’s a project Washington County School officials are looking into as well.

However, by law, officers can’t use the footage to issue a driver a citation, which is why Dr. Jarrod Adams, special projects manager at Washington County Schools, said he is hesitant. 

“If I have a video and they tell us well unless we are there to see it or unless there’s an accident that happens they can’t follow up on it, then to me it’s almost moot to have something like that if it’s not going to be able to be followed up on,” Adams said.

In Elizabethton, Hutchins said the school system hopes the legislation will change so law enforcement can use the footage.

It’s a change State Representative Matthew Hill said he would support and wants to put additional funding toward these cameras.

“I think that it’s necessary and it’s needed, and I think that would be a good project for state and local government to partner together on,” Hill said.

While officers won’t be allowed to use the footage to write a citation, Hutchins said it does give police the ability to look up the license plate number and track down the individual to make them aware of their actions.

He said if an officer does witness a driver pass a stopped school bus, the driver could face a fine up to $1,000.

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