GLASGOW — New stop arm cameras providing a 180-degree view will soon be installed on some of the school buses operated by the Barren County School System.
District transportation officials are hoping the new stop arm cameras will aid them in catching people who fail to stop when the stop arms are deployed on school buses.
The school district already has some stop arm cameras on buses now.
“We've had some that we have done in a couple of areas that were deemed pretty bad on running the stop arms on busy highways, and so we have five of those out, but they are one directional,” said Chip Jenkins, district transportation director.
With the new stop arm cameras providing an 180-degree view, district transportation officials will be able to see vehicles traveling in either direction. They also hope they will be able to see the license plates of the vehicles, as well as identify the make and models of the vehicles and whether or not men or women are driving, he said.
“If they are coming from the front or they decide to pass from behind, or maybe like even on a four-lane highway, oncoming traffic on a four-lane doesn't have to stop, but the ones behind you do,” he said. “It's just a way to kind of monitor and watch what happens and goes on so we thought we will just try that out and see what that looks like.”
Jenkins said he has found that a lot of people don't understand that it is against state law to pass a school bus when its stop arm is deployed.
He has also found that for the most part people are just inattentive.
“They are either focusing on something else or late and they just come up on a school bus loading or unloading a student and they just don't pay attention and they will just run it,” Jenkins said.
The school district issues information at the beginning of each school year about motorists needing to stop when school buses are loading and unloading students. The state also puts out information, but still, some people just drive on by without stopping, he said.
When the school district has a stop arm violation, Jenkins said it turns over whatever information it has regarding the incident to the county attorney, who issues a summons to court.
The school district has not had any incidents where students have been hurt due to motorists passing school buses when the stop arms are deployed.
“We've been blessed in Barren County,” he said, adding that there have been some close calls, but usually bus drivers are able to stop students from crossing if the situations don't appear to be safe. “If they recognize a vehicle is going way too fast, they will just let them go on by. There is no use in throwing a stop arm because they are not going to stop in time. Let them go on by, watch, and then activate that stop arm.”
The school district has ordered five of the new stop arm cameras, which cost about $575 each.
“These next five we are putting out we will probably put them out in some other areas where there is a pretty decent amount of volume and the drivers have called and said, 'Hey, I've got somebody who ran my stop arm, but I couldn't catch the plate,'” he said. “Right now, we're just trying to put them on troubled spots.”
He added that he knows neighboring school districts are also installing stop arm cameras on buses to also be proactive.
Bo Matthews, superintendent of Barren County schools, said he and the board of education appreciate the school district's transportation staff implementing the latest in technology to improve the level of safety for students.
“We recognize that transportation can be a dangerous business that we are part of and certainly want to commend our bus drivers for always being observant and keeping students' safety first and foremost,” he said. “We feel like the cameras are going to be an added tool in our box to continue to make the public aware that we are dealing with life and death situations here. We will certainly continue to work with local law enforcement to make sure all of the laws are obeyed when it comes to transporting children.”