Local school system among those considering cameras on school buses

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A $13,000,000 proposal to install cameras on school buses is advancing in the Tennessee General Assembly.

The goal is to catch drivers failing to stop when students are being dropped off.

House members cleared an amendment that allows school districts to purchase and install cameras on the exterior of school buses.

School districts would also have the option of entering into a contract with a private vendor to purchase, install, operate and maintain those cameras.

“Anything that’s going to improve our safety situation,” said Kingsport City Schools Transportation Supervisor Tommy Starnes.

The Kingsport City Schools took part in a statewide survery of transportation districts on Friday.

One of the issues the survey deals with is people failing to stop for school buses.

“The last time we did this, we had 66 vehicles pass by a stop sign in one day,” said Starnes. “Today, we did our morning numbers and we’re going to be about at that number again.”

Starnes said all of those numbers reflect situations where students were not crossing the street.

“It’s an alarming number,” he said.

The school district already has cameras installed on many buses, allowing them to capture the tag number of violators.

If this bill passes in the senate, school districts using cameras on the outside of school buses would have to establish procedures for the bus drivers to submit information about an alleged violation that occured.

 It would then be reviewed by a post-certified or state-comissioned law enforcement officer who would determine whether a fine will be issued.

“If we can have structures in place from a legal stand point,” said Kingsport City Schools Assistant Superintendent Andy True, “from a law standpoint and also from an operational stand point that’s going to help create a safer environment for children which is always going to be our first priority.”

The House passed an amended version of the bill Monday, allocating 100% of the fine proceeds to the local education agency without being designated for any particular purpose.

“Our motto is, it’s not just a stop sign,” said Starnes, “it’s a child’s life, and if we could get everyone to adhere to that, that would be great.”

News Channel 11 reached out to a number of school districts today.

Kingsport is not the only system to already use cameras on buses, Elizabethton City Schools also have some on their buses as well.

The minimum fine for passing a school bus illegally is between $250 and $1,000.

If the bill passes in the Tennessee senate, a first offense would cost a driver no more than $50.

A second offense could result in a more hefty fine. 

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