A bill that would allow schools districts to install cameras on buses to nab drivers who go past school bus stop sign arms earned a narrow approval by the state Senate Education Committee on Tuesday.
Five senators voted in favor of the bill and four passed on voting. Concerns raised by those who declined to vote centered around a general dislike of traffic enforcement cameras.
The bill is sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville). It allows those cited to pay a fine out of court without a penalty to their driver’s license. School districts opting to use cameras would be responsible for the costs of purchasing and maintaining them but costs would be offset with money paid in fines. Twenty percent of the proceeds from fines would go to local law enforcement to help compensate for the time and expense of reviewing images.
Ray Robinson, a lieutenant with the Tennessee Highway Patrol who overseas student transportation, told the committee Tuesday that “there are a lot of close calls” and that some students have been hit over the past few years though no one has been killed.
The matter is a growing issue across the U.S., with some districts choosing to mount cameras on the outside of buses to address the problem. Schools in Austin, Texas installed cameras early last year, according to Fox 7 Austin. However, some school districts in Texas and elsewhere have found themselves embroiled in lawsuits after installing cameras. A class-action lawsuit was filed last last year against the cities of Dallas and Carrollton and the agency that runs school buses in the county, according to the Dallas Morning News. The plaintiffs say they don’t remember going past the stop arms or weren’t the ones driving at the time.
Concern over a possible lack of due process rights is also what troubles critics on Tennessee’s Senate Education Committee.
“I think the states need to be moving away from these cameras,” said Sen. Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown).
Concerns were also raised about a push for cameras being exploited by traffic camera vendors hungry for a profit.