New bill allows Albemarle to install cameras on school bus stop arms

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ALBEMARLE COUNTY, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- A new state law will allow video cameras to be installed on the stop arms of school buses.

Passing by school buses while their stop arms are extended is a dangerous issue in Albemarle County.

There are an estimated 6,000 violations every year in the county.

"For student safety, it's important that motorists don't pass our stopped school buses," said Jim Foley, Albemarle County Public Schools Director of Transportation.

Police say it is an offense that is hard to catch, but the new state law could help stop the problem.

Delegate Rob Bell (R-Albemarle) supported the bill.

It is something Foley has been working to get passed for about seven years.

"Finally, with Rob Bell's help, we got a bill passed to allow us to use stop arm cameras on school buses," Foley said.

The cameras will capture footage of drivers as they cruise by.

"When the stop arm comes out, there's a sensor that senses motion. If it senses motion, it turns on the video camera," said Foley.

That video of the car and its information makes its way to police.

If it is verified as a violation, the driver is sent a ticket for $250.

Foley said the hefty price tag has been proven to stop repeat offenses.

"The vendors have told me that when these cameras have been put in other school districts, they've seen a one-percent recidivism rate," Foley said.

The county hopes to install 10 to 20 camera systems by the 2019-2020 school year.

The cameras can be moved from one bus to another, as needed.

"The highest risks routes will get the cameras first. That would be a road like Earlysville Road that is high-speed, two-lane," said Foley.

He hopes this process will make the roads safer for students.

"It really is stressful for the drivers because it's always on the mind, they have to look out for the students. They see this risky motorist behavior every day," he said.

The Albemarle County Board of Supervisors will have to change a local ordinance in June before the cameras can be installed.

Albemarle County Public Schools will then send out a proposal for bids to three different vendors. The vendor will keep part of the $250 ticket when someone is fined.

The camera systems will be installed for free.

Foley is hoping to have it all done by the end of the summer.

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