Gather Local Stakeholder Needs and Citation Requirements in Advance When Planning School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Deployments.

Study of Implementation in Three School Districts in Mississippi, Nebraska, and Virginia Summarizes Feedback from Interviews and Violation Analyses.

Date Posted

Examination of Three Districts Implementing Stop-Arm Camera Programs to Enforce Laws Against Illegal Passing of Stopped School Buses

Summary Information

Installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses is an emerging strategy used by schools and law enforcement agencies to address safety risks for school-age pedestrians. A stop-arm camera is a bus-mounted device that records images of vehicles that pass school buses when the stop-arm is extended. These systems gather potential citation data by detecting and recording vehicles violating laws against passing stopped school buses engaged in pickup or discharge of passengers.  Researchers conducted a detailed examination of stop-arm camera implementation in three school districts in Virginia, Nebraska and Mississippi in addition to a comprehensive literature review. Information was collected on the school districts’ experiences in implementing vehicle-based video / photo enforcement, efforts to educate and inform the public, cooperation with law enforcement, successes and challenges in issuing citations and penalties, and lessons learned. The study revealed important insights on the school bus stop-arm camera programs for stakeholders.

Lessons Learned

  • Considering range of program partners: The participants interviewed by the researchers noted that considering the wide range of stakeholders involved in the stop-arm camera program in any capacity are vital for program planning and execution. Project team discussed concerns with school district staff members, jurisdictional agencies, vendors, operations and maintenance personnel, and a variety of staff and stakeholders from the school community.
  • Talking with other school districts with existing programs: Engaging with agency staff in other jurisdictions who are already operating a stop-arm camera enforcement program can provide information on the unexpected challenges they encountered, identify strategies to overcome barriers and key partners and stakeholders to work with, and understand program costs and benefits.
  • Understanding requirements for prosecuting a violation: States and districts have varying legislation and requirements to issue passing citations. Stop-arm camera systems need to satisfy local documentation requirements with a clear chain of custody. Typically systems need to capture vehicle and license plate information, stop arm deployment, and show that the school bus was stopped. Depending on state laws and local ordinances, citations may be issued to the registered vehicle owner. In some jurisdictions, a clear image of the driver and evidence of active passenger loading or unloading is required.
  • Supporting awareness with media campaigns: Media campaigns about school bus stop-arm cameras were viewed as effective, but the outreach needs to be constant to gain the critical support of the public. The projects worked with the school district’s public relations staff, local newspaper, and other media outlets to promote the enforcement program and raise awareness. Social media can also be used to provide instant contact with people, educate drivers and raise awareness.
  • Educating drivers and providing additional signage:  Stakeholders suggested including an education program for drivers to understand when to stop for a school bus and learn the meaning of the yellow flashing lights. Signs on the buses and highway signs to alert drivers of camera enforcement were also suggested.
  • Using video for more than issuing citations: Data from the stop-arm camera system can be used to identify locations with a high rate of illegal passing so that law enforcement can perform targeted patrols in those areas. The systems were also reported to make bus drivers more aware of their own actions.

Examination of Three Districts Implementing Stop-Arm Camera Programs to Enforce Laws Against Illegal Passing of Stopped School Buses

Examination of Three Districts Implementing Stop-Arm Camera Programs to Enforce Laws Against Illegal Passing of Stopped School Buses
Source Publication Date
Katz, Bryan; Erin Kissner; Dana Lee; Steve Jackson; Paula Raymond; Heather Rigdon
Prepared by Toxcel for National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
Other Reference Number
DOT HS 813 102
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