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County Moves Toward Cameras on School Buses

The County Council's Public Safety Committee unanimously endorsed the idea.

Drivers who don't stop for children getting off of school buses could soon face a fine of up to $250 under a bill moving through the County Council. 

The council's Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended the bill at its meeting Thursday, and the issue will go before the full council as early as Feb. 7.

The bill, , does not specify a cost, fine amount or number of cameras. Instead, it authorizes Montgomery County Police to consult with the Board of Education on a plan to install cameras on certain buses.

Councilmember Phil Andrews, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the county has issued more than 1,200 citations over the past three years for failure to stop at a bus crossing, and that passing the bill will send a clear message to drivers.

"It happens way too often," he said. "It's very dangerous, and this is a way, we hope, to reduce the likelihood that we'll see these kinds of violations in the future."

Earlier this week, a Silver Spring parent , catching numerous drivers ignoring the law and passing the stopped bus.

Currently, enforcement of the law is limited to a letter sent to violators that carries no fine. Furthermore, many instances go unreported because bus drivers don't catch the plates of the cars that pass by, said Todd Watkins of Montgomery County Public Schools' Department of Transportation.

The bill comes after a 2011 state law allowing for the use of video cameras on buses to catch offenders, capping the possible fine at $250.

But County Council attorney Robert Drummer said Montgomery County may want to set its fine below the maximum. The higher the cost, the more likely offenders are to contest the fine in court, he said, and the county only receives money from citations paid outside the courtroom.

The county will also need to decide on how and where to get the cameras.

Richard Harrison, program manager of MCPD's Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, said each camera will likely cost between $5,000 and $8,000, and the county can either put out a request for proposals or negotiate a deal with the vendors it currently uses for speed and red-light cameras.

Watkins said the program would ideally start with a couple dozen cameras on MCPS's most problematic bus routes and then, if successful, expand from there.

Calvert and Frederick counties are also considering similar programs, Harrison said.

Should Montgomery County pass the bus camera bill? Vote in our poll and share your views in the comments.

Richard Rice February 03, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I remember all too well riding school buses for special ed in my early education in Montgomery County and seeing cars whizing by at an incredible and incredulous rate of speed. Cameras to catch scoff laws need to be put on school buses and add a nice hefty fine to go along with the letter!
Janis February 03, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Exterior cameras have already been installed on MCPS buses. This bill is to throw away the existing cameras and buy new ones. Cost? Unlike speed cameras, these cameras just take video that has to be watched by a human being. Cost? Look forward to learning the facts behind this proposal.
Danny February 03, 2012 at 06:22 PM
first of all, thanks so much for your approval of the level of thought that went into my opinion (which anyone with a bit of common sense could tell was a sarcastic extrapolation of your "revoke their licenses" comment). let me reciprocate by informing you that "it's" and "its" are two different words.
Jeff W February 06, 2012 at 04:15 PM
Thanks for the grammar check Danny. Now I know one of your strengths.
Danny February 07, 2012 at 01:40 AM
Yep! Communicating in the English language is an important skill.

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