BARTHOLOMEW COUNTY, Ind. – Officials with the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation want to see safer school bus routes by pushing for stop arm cameras on all buses.
“Our buses cover 8,000 miles a day. We have 120 route buses that make 1,000 student stops every day,” says Brett Boezeman, director of operations for the Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation.
Currently, twelve of the school buses with Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation have stop arm cameras. Officials feel a dozen is not enough. They want the stop arm cameras on the rest of the 120 buses in the fleet.
“I do think this will make our students safer,” said Sgt. Julie Quesenbery, with the Columbus Police Department.
Nearly everyday school officials and police hear reports of a driver passing a school bus when the stop arm is out. Just this morning, they saw it for themselves.
“We witnessed 4 violations on a bus that was right there in front of us before we left our administration building, so it’s happening,” said Boezeman.
The cameras are installed below the stop arm on the side of the bus. The cameras start recording as soon as the bus is started. The cameras are aimed low enough to record a license plate. As soon as a violator goes around stop arm, the bus driver can mark the video. A report is then filed, sent to law enforcement and a citation is sent. Since August, the twelve cameras already installed have helped police catch six violators.
“I think it’s given our bus drivers that have had the opportunity to utilize that assurance to know there’s some teeth behind it now,” said Boezeman.
School bus safety is an issue that hits home for this community. Five months ago, 16-year-old Lily Streeval was hit and killed while trying to get on the school bus. Flowers, a wreath and a cross are still on the side of the road in her memory.
“I really hope people feel the urgency in this and they need to pay attention to what’s going on around them when they’re operating a vehicle especially whenever stop arms are out,” said Sgt. Quesenbery.
School officials are also looking to upgrade the interior cameras on all the buses and add dashboard cameras. It’s a move to hopefully prevent close calls and another tragedy.
“It makes sense to us,” said Boezeman
The cameras and other safety upgrades would cost $300,000, which is money from the district’s operations budget. The proposal still needs final approval from the school board. If it moves, forward the cameras could be installed by August 1.