The Bethel School District is taking advantage of a new state law to put the electronic eye on drivers who don’t stop for school buses.
Safety cameras will be installed on about 10 percent of the district’s buses on a one-year trial basis. The move was approved by the School Board in the hope of catching violations and improve student safety during the 2012-13 school year.
The cameras are the result of Senate Bill 5540, which the Legislature passed in 2011 to allow school districts to install the small cameras on buses. The cameras can only take pictures of vehicles and license plate, not drivers or passengers. But the equipment will provide a visual record incidents in which vehicles that don’t stop when the buses’ red lights are flashing lights while they’re picking up or dropping off students.
The make, model and year of the car, plus a physical description of the driver such as gender, age and hair color are required to press charges for the offense that carries a $394 fine.
The infraction doesn’t become part of a driver’s record, but is processed the same way as parking tickets.
The state plans to use the fines it collects to pay for school bus cameras and safety improvements in school zones.
Bethel officials said violations of the school bus rule occur annually in their district.
Revenue generated from the camera-related tickets can help pay for the camera equipment and for related administrative costs, according to the state superintendent of public instruction. Any money left over would be returned to the school district to be used for school zone safety.
Specifications for the camera systems include:
• Photo, micro-photo or electronic images, which must be captured without the use of a visible flash.
• Cameras may be mounted inside or outside the bus and on either side; if outside, they can’t extend more than six inches from the side of the bus.
• Shall verify the stop sign is in use and red lights on the bus are flashing at the time of an infraction.
• Shall capture the rear license plate, from either direction, when a vehicle passes illegally.
• Capture images only of the lanes immediately to the left or the right of the bus.
• Can’t be activated by or district the bus drivers.
Eatonville School District officials have considered installing the cameras on their buses but were waiting last year to learn if the equipment might face any court challenges in other parts of the state. Superintendent Rich Stewart said Monday that there have been no discussions among Eatonville officials about possibly installing cameras.
Central Valley School District in Spokane was the first in Washington to try the cameras, starting last May. Eight violations were recorded the first day the cameras were in use.