NEWPORT NEWS, Va. -- The sign that swings out on a school bus says “stop,” but that has not stopped drivers from going around stopped school buses. It is incidents like these that resulted in roughly 13,000 people being injured in 2019, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.
“If I’m coming on Jefferson Avenue and I get stuck, I’m watching people on the opposite side Just go right by,” Shay Coates, Transportation Director with Newport News Public Schools, said.
Officials in Newport News decided to take action to combat the issue in the city. Starting Monday, a new program goes into effect where all 340 of the city’s school buses, equipped with stop-arm cameras, will catch violators in the act.
Coates said he hopes this program deters violations.
“Couple of times I’ll put my hand out the window to get people to stop,” Coates said, "especially in the mornings when you see it happening in the morning."
The school division teamed up with a company called BusPatrol to monitor the cameras. The cameras did not cost either the school district or taxpayers a dime and are being funded by violation fines, according to the school division.
During a testing period, Coates explained, the cameras picked up more than 400 violations that would have resulted in $250 fines.
When the bus has its stop sign swung open, the camera that is mounted on the side will start recording all the traffic around the bus. If it picks up a car that bypasses the stop sign, it will send a clip of that to BusPatrol, which will then get sent over to the Newport News Police Department.
“It will take 30 seconds for the police to say yes or no,” Coates explained, "then they’ll send that back to the company and the company will send out a citation to that civilian that caused the violation."
Drivers will only get the citation if it's determined a violation was committed, but no points will be added to the violator’s license. But Coates said he hopes people are still considerate when they approach a stopped school bus.
“I just want people to recognize, to be safe around a school bus,” Coates said. “Don’t be in such a rush and take your time."
Newport News now joins Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, which also have stop-arm cameras on their school buses.