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Coming next school year: Electronic crackdown

6:37 am July 10th, 2014

Starting next fall, 10 Bethel School District buses will have camera systems to help catch motorists who don't yield to stopped buses.  (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

Starting next fall, 10 Bethel School District buses will have camera systems to help catch motorists who don’t yield to stopped buses. (Jim Bryant/The Dispatch)

By Pat Jenkins
The District
The Bethel School District and Pierce County authorities are joining forces to help put a stop to school bus stop-paddle violations.
The school district will install camera systems by September on 10 of its buses for a pilot program with District Court and the Sheriff Department. As the 2014-15 school year begins and buses are again carrying students to and from school, the system will be tested as a prelude to authorities eventually ticketing motoristst who don’t stop and wait while kids are getting on or off a bus.
Through mid-October, the system’s reliability in recording violations will be assessed before any citations are issued, officials said.
The Bethel district began moving toward such a crackdown after the Legislature in 2011 passed a state law allowing an electronic eye on drivers around school buses. The School Board later authorized the district to take advantage of Senate Bill 5540, which allows cameras mounted on buses to automatically take pictures of vehicles and license plates. That information is used by authorities to send tickets to the registered owners of automobiles that don’t stop when buses have their red lights flashing and stop-paddles extended.
The make, model and year of the offending vehicle are required to press charges for the offense.
An infraction doesn’t become part of a driver’s record, but is processed the same way as parking tickets.
Eatonville School District, working with Redflex, a manufacturer of camera systems, took a step last year into electronic enforcement by participating in a study that determined an average of one violation per day. That was enough for the district to go forward with the next step of rotating the cameras among each of its buses for five days at a time.
Tickets that stand up in court carry a $500 fine. Revenue from the penalties is divided between school districts and the county, which uses the money for associated court and Sheriff Department costs. Schools use their share for safety-related programs.
A national study in 2011 by the Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services monitored 112,000 buses in 28 states and recorded 76,000 illegal passes in one day. That would equate to 13 million infractions in a full school year, the association reported.
The study was the first of its kind on a national level, officials said.

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