July 2, 2014
The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved an ordinance Wednesday morning that establishes a video-monitoring system on school buses.
Everyday students in Albemarle Co. ride the bus to and from school, but according to bus drivers, the danger is what happens when they go to get off the bus, when motorists ignore the buses flashing light and stop sign, and speed right past.
Marian Fuller is a bus driver with 30 years of experience, and says she sees people ignoring her warnings every day, and putting kids’ lives at risk.
"There was a kindergartener and a Bright Star crossing the road, and I could see the car coming. I didn't want to scare the kids. I'm trying to honk the horn, cars behind me are honking the horn," said Fuller. "I'd hate to see any child get hurt from something like that."
Albemarle Co. Police estimate the in the past year alone, there have been 6,000 violations. The number of violations, and the safety of the school children, is why the police and bus drivers had the support of the Board of Supervisors to pass the ordinance.
"The purpose of this program is to catch violators when police cannot always be there," said Albemarle Co. Deputy Chief of Police Ron Lantz.
The board hopes to have cameras installed on 25 buses beginning in December, although Supervisor Ann Malleck said she would like to see it sooner than that. If a motorist is caught ignoring the bus's stop sign and flashing signals the license plate will be photographed and the driver will face a civil penalty of $250.
Supervisors and police also plan to educate the community about the new ordinance in an effort to help raise awareness about the issue through public service announcements. Fuller said she hopes the more people will become aware of the danger, the less often it will happen.
"I think a lot of people are gonna slow down before they pass, or if they get caught the first time, I don’t think they will do it again."
The Board of Supervisors did raise some privacy concerns with this technology. Police say it will operate like current red-light cameras and only activate when someone drivers past. They also say 10 days after the matter is settled the video will be destroyed.