UPDATE April 11, 2019: From Transportation Committee: Do pass on 8 to 3 vote and re-referred to Committee on Education which set an April 24 hearing.
Senate Bill 371 was introduced on February 20, 2019 and subsequently assigned to the Transportation Committee. The Committee scheduled an April 9, 2019 hearing date.
The NMA is opposed to the bill because it would permit school buses to be equipped with an automated enforcement camera. School bus stop-arm cameras are another of the photo-based traffic enforcement “solutions” looking for a problem. These systems employ cameras mounted on the exterior of school buses to record alleged passing violations of stopped school buses that are loading or unloading children. Supporters play upon the strong emotions elicited by the prospects of school children put at risk by negligent motorists, and they imply the cameras will save countless lives. The truth is far different. For more information, go here.
- School transportation is remarkably safe
According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report reviewed as recently as December 2017 (http://www.cde.ca.gov/ls/tn/or/nhtsa3702.asp), children are eight times safer riding in school buses than they are in passenger vehicles despite the fact that the United States’ 450,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles annually to transport 23.5 million children to and from school.
- School transportation fatalities are rare
Also according to NHTSA (http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/812170.pdf), between 2004 and 2013, there were 1,344 fatalities related to school transportation including vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. That accounted for just 0.40 percent of the total number of annual traffic fatalities across the United States during the ten-year period in question.
- Most school-age pedestrian fatalities are caused by the school bus
Of those 134 (on average) annual fatalities countrywide, NHTSA reports that approximately 12 were school-age pedestrians (18 and younger), the population that school bus cameras are intended to protect. Furthermore, two-thirds of those fatalities were caused by the school bus or a vehicle acting as the school bus. Therefore each state had, on average, one child fatality approximately every 4 years that was caused by a vehicle passing a school bus. In California, for example, there have been no fatalities since 2001 related to motorists illegally passing school buses.
- Cameras cannot stop distracted drivers
Cameras cannot deter drivers who pose the greatest risk. These include drivers who are inattentive, impaired, or responding to an emergency. Likewise, some drivers will misjudge stopping distances in bad weather and slide in the danger area, even when they see the warning flashers. Ticketing drivers by camera after the fact cannot stop these incidents from occurring.
The data are clear: Bus driver training, along with awareness training in and around school buses for students, are the most important factors in preventing school bus fatalities. Until lawmakers and administrators address these issues, bringing private camera vendors into traffic enforcement makes the process susceptible to profiteering when the focus should remain on optimizing children’s safety.