EDITOR: School bus stop-arm cameras are another of the photo-based traffic enforcement “solutions” looking for a problem. Supporters play upon the strong emotions elicited by the prospects of school children put at risk by negligent motorists, and they imply the cameras will save countless lives. The truth is far different.
Fatal school bus accidents are exceedingly rare. The fatalities that do happen involving a school bus are far more likely to be caused by school bus drivers hitting a child than ordinary motorists, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Of 134 annual fatalities between 2004 and 2013, NHTSA reports that approximately 12 were school-age pedestrians (18 and younger), the population that school bus cameras are intended to protect. Furthermore, two-thirds of those fatalities were caused by the actual school bus or a vehicle acting as the school bus. Therefore each state had, on average, one child fatality approximately every 4 years that was caused by a vehicle passing a school bus.
Advocates of the cameras typically attribute each death of a child to reckless motorists who pass school buses, but the accident reports prove otherwise. Accidents were caused by the bus driver crashing into a fixed object, a child falling out of the bus, the bus colliding with a train and the bus overturning.
In practice, the majority of school bus camera tickets do not go to the owners of vehicles that endanger children. Instead, the system focuses on technical violations, including drivers who stop for the bus, but not at the specific distance required.
Stop-arm cameras are a money-making scheme. As red light and speed cameras are being discredited and rejected nationwide, the camera companies are desperate to find new sources of revenue. Using emotions to sell stop-arm cameras to school districts is their high-pressure solution. Don’t fall for it. Stop-arm cameras are not for safety, they exist only to raise money. Thank you.
Tom McCarey Member, National Motorists Association