LANHAM – The Prince George’s County Police installed cameras on 20 schools buses as the school year began in an effort to provide more safety for students. “These cameras will be the first traffic cameras on our school buses,” said Maj. Robert Liberati. “Our goal is the safety for our children, preventing accidents regarding children […]
LANHAM – The Prince George’s County Police installed cameras on 20 schools buses as the school year began in an effort to provide more safety for students.
“These cameras will be the first traffic cameras on our school buses,” said Maj. Robert Liberati. “Our goal is the safety for our children, preventing accidents regarding children leaving and boarding school buses, and using the automated enforcement cameras to highlight this program and capture violations.”
The cameras will only activate when a school bus is stopped, the red stop lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, Liberati said.
For the last four years the county has participated in a national one-day count of violations for people not stopping when a school is stopped, Liberati said. This year, on April 24, school bus drivers reported 669 violations. In addition, Liberati said police officers issued 180 tickets last year and have issued 94 so far this year.
“There are lots of things going on in people’s vehicles,” Liberati said. “This is just one part of our safety program. It is about speed and attention to what you are doing. This is very important. An accident involving a child is certainly tragic. Not only for the child and his family, which is unspeakable, but also for the driver that is involved. That is something they would have to carry for the rest of their life. And that is only the emotional part because then you have the financial part.”
When an officer issues a ticket for passing a stopped school bus, the ticket carries a $570 fine and three points on the driver’s license, Liberati said. Violations caught by the cameras will cost violators $125 and no points. To get caught by the cameras, the vehicle must travel all the way past the camera, Liberati said.
Prince George’s County is the third county in Maryland to implement a school bus camera program, following Charles County and Montgomery County. Liberati said he thinks the most important factor is awareness, because the results of Montgomery’s program show that drivers are only passing the cameras one time and not getting multiple tickets.
“I think for those people that are passing school buses, they aren’t paying attention and for whatever reason they are doing it, when they get zapped with a fine that will certainly get their attention,” Liberati said. “But I think for the most part it is inattention. Part of our message here today is to look for the buses. School is starting, look for the buses.”
Rex Barrett, acting director of security services for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said the school system is excited about the program. When school bus drivers were informed about the cameras, Barrett said, they were very happy.
“This allows us the opportunity to safeguard our students who traverse on and off buses on a daily basis,” Barrett said. “In addition, it allows us to let people know that we are taking this very seriously and that the violation notices will issued.”
Liberati said the 20 cameras will not cost the county any money because the cameras are being provided under the county’s contract with Xerox for red light cameras. Xerox will receive 70 percent of the revenue generated from the school bus camera tickets and the county will receive 30 percent. Liberati also said school bus cameras do not issue the same volume of tickets as speed cameras and red light cameras.
When the cameras catch a violation, Liberati said Xerox will review the recording first. Once they verify the violation it is sent to the police department, where officers will review the video and then give final permission to send out a ticket to the owner of the vehicle.
If the owner is not the driver, Liberati said, then there is a process for transferring liability.
“If the person receiving the violation, the owner, provides evidence to the court’s satisfaction that someone else was driving the vehicle, we will reissue the violation to that person,” Liberati said. “But ultimately it falls on the owner of the vehicle to pay that violation. If the violation isn’t paid and the vehicle is registered in Maryland, we will suspend the registration eventually.”