School districts in Northeast Ohio are adding cameras to their buses to help keep students safe and to catch errant drivers who illegally pass the vehicles.
According to Safe Fleet, school bus cameras typically attach to the outside of the bus next to the stop sign that swings outward to alert motorists that children are either boarding or exiting the bus. These cameras contain two lenses, one facing toward the back and one toward the front of the bus, to record any motorist who illegally passes. Some buses also have a camera mounted on the inside of the bus to read license plate numbers.
Ohio Revised Code section 4511.75 states that when a school bus’ amber lights begin flashing, motorists should prepare to stop. When its red lights come on or its stop sign arm extends outward, motorists should stop at a minimum of 10 feet away regardless if they are behind the bus or facing it.
If a motorist is on a two-lane road, it is illegal to pass the school bus, and must remain stopped until the bus moves. On a four-lane road, only vehicles traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop.
“Ohio drivers need to watch for school buses – especially when they stop to drop off or pick up our students. Working together, we can ensure that school buses remain the safest mode of transportation for students to and from school,” Governor Mike DeWine told the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
Ohio law states that if the identity of the person driving the vehicle at the time of the violation cannot be established, the investigating law enforcement agency can only issue a warning. According to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, between 2017 and 2019 troopers cited 1,999 drivers who passed a school bus when they were required to stop.
“Although drivers are required to stop for school buses loading or unloading passengers, children should not rely on motorists to do so. Children exiting the bus should always stop and look both ways before crossing the street, remaining alert for any sudden traffic,” Patrol Superintendent Richard S. Fambro said in a statement.
School districts such as Perry Local Schools, Canton City Schools, Minerva Local Schools, Dalton Local Schools, and Brown Local Schools have all begun implementing the use of cameras to increase safety.
Districts in the Northeast have attempted to add more lights, flashier bulbs, and even brightly lit signs that read “School Bus” across the top of buses to make the already very recognizable long yellow vehicles even more identifiable.
The penalty for passing a stopped school bus, regardless whether a stop-sign arm deploys, is a misdemeanor count with a fine of no more than $500 and a possibility of a one-year license suspension. It’s also two points on your license.
In some Northeast Ohio communities, officials are approving stricter penalties if caught illegally passing a school bus. Some of these penalties include higher penalty costs with the potential of jail time.
Northeast Ohio communities with stricter penalties include North Ridgeville, Avon Lake, Eastlake, Hudson, Mayfield Heights, North Royalton, and Strongsville.
Crash statistics from the Ohio Highway Patrol show that 176 pedestrians died last year from traffic crashes in Ohio, a figure nearly 17 percent higher than the five-year average.
According to statistics from the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT), accidents involving young pedestrian spike in the morning and afternoon, with 3:00 and 4:00 p.m. showing as peak hours. Last year there were 14 deaths of pedestrians 18 years old or younger in Ohio.
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