School Buses Add High-Tech Eyes To Stop Arm Signs

MINNESOTA – A school bus with its red lights flashing and the stop arm extended signaling a traffic stop… But that didn’t stop a car from rolling right through it seemingly without hesitation.

“I don’t ever want to respond to an accident. Where one of our kids got hit and killed, or severely injured,” said Nathan Berg, Willow River School Transportation Supervisor.

A proper stop by both drivers and the child Berg explains, is not always the case.

“Kids are kids, that’s why we love them. But it can be like herding cats when they get off a bus, they go every direction,” said Berg.

According to Lieutenant Brian Reu with the Minnesota State Patrol, before the pandemic disrupted everything school related, the State was seeing more than 1,000 stop-arm violations a year.

To help with safety, education, and enforcement, Minnesota State Legislators approved $14.7 million in total funding for school bus stop-arm cameras in 2022 and 2023.

“If this is an extra tool to help get our kids to and from school safely, we definitely want to use it,” said Berg. ”

Willow River received one of the grants and had cameras installed in October.

“We’re not in the business of finding and convicting and everything else,” explained Berg.

But Berg says they have and will continue to turn in violators. “We’re just in the business of keeping our kids safe,” said Berg.

Bus drivers are almost juggling a 3-ring circus. “He’s looking at all of his mirrors,” explained Berg. While also operating a steering wheel and watching the kids.

The cameras serve as another tool to help catch license plate numbers.

“That one time, that one time, that someone blitz’s through, you can catch them,” said Berg.

So what happens after a violation occurs?

  • Bus driver files a report.
  • Bus driver passes the footage onto law enforcement, who then tracks the license plate.
  • They then determine the driver and issue a citation, with the minimum fine being $500.

And if you pass a bus when a child is near the outside, you can face a misdemeanor, a gross misdemeanor, and/or a $500 fine.

“We’ve gotta get this information out to the public and tell them wake up,” said Berg.

In Wisconsin, Superior already has stop-arm cameras, and now Minnesota districts are determined to make things safer. Both Hermantown and Duluth schools have received the grants.

“We’ve got to do better,” said Berg. He says it comes down to 2 words, pay attention. “Put your phone away. Put your distractions away and be present.”

However, he says kids must also pay attention. “I want them present at all times at the bus stop.”

And it’s up to bus drivers and guardians to educate them. “Please. Watch your bus driver. Your bus driver is the key for your kids getting to school and home bus safely,” said Berg.

Again, failure to stop at a school bus stop arm can put at risk the life of a child, and their future.

“We’re with young people’s lives,” said Berg.

And if you’re the one behind the wheel, it can change your life with potential consequences.

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