The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday February 3rd

Cooper's plan to install school bus cameras gains support

Attorney General Roy Cooper’s proposal for cameras on all North Carolina public school buses has gained support from the Child Fatality Task Force and the North Carolina School Boards Association. 

The proposal pushes for camera installations to photograph the license plates of any drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus. These stop-arm cameras would use the same technology used to catch drivers who run red lights.

In October, Cooper asked the Child Fatality Task Force, a special task force established to promote children’s safety and consisting of state legislators and child safety experts, to examine the technology and recommend the best way to implement it on North Carolina school buses.

The Child Fatality Task Force voted unanimously on Nov. 17 to support Cooper’s plan.

“This is a proven way to deter motorists from passing stopped school buses without cost to the taxpayers,” Cooper said in a statement.? “It will definitely make our kids safer when they ride the bus to school.”

The photographs of offenders’ license plates captured by these cameras would automatically issue civil citations to registered vehicle owners.

According to the Department of Justice's statement, the system would pay for itself because monetary penalties paid by violators would go to public schools under the state’s constitution.

Other states such as Georgia, Maryland and Virginia have implemented similar laws and found it improves student safety and deters potentially deadly accidents.

State law deems it illegal to pass a school bus while it is stopped to pick up or drop off children, but this fall, several children in North Carolina have been injured and even killed while boarding or waiting for their school buses. 

A survey taken over a day at the beginning of this school year found that 3,153 vehicles passed stopped school buses in North Carolina, which is more than double the number in 2000.

In recent weeks, three North Carolina students have been injured while boarding school buses when drivers passed them illegally. Another student was killed while waiting for his school bus.

State legislation would be required to give local school boards the necessary authority to implement the system in North Carolina.

The N.C. School Boards Association also backs the proposed plan. In a letter to Cooper, Leanne E. Winner, director of governmental relations for the association, said empowering school boards with the authority to enter into locally tailored contracts with stop-arm cameras will further this vital safety objective in a fiscally sound manner. 

Jeff Nash, spokesman at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said he supports any initiative that will support students. 

“I applaud the Attorney General’s efforts to stop reckless bus passing,” he said in an email.

Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools currently has 85 yellow school buses for daily transport and 20 white activity school buses in their fleet to transport students. 

Nash said he wasn’t sure if Cooper's proposal will make an impact, but he said if the plan saves one child, it is certainly worth it.

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