By News Staff
State Rep. Robert Goforth (R-East Bernstadt) prefiled the bill last week that would require the installation of stop-arm cameras on all Kentucky school buses.
“As a father, and as a legislator, I am committed to doing all I can to protect Kentucky’s children as they are transported to and from school, and I believe this is legislation whose time has come,” Goforth said. “We’ve had some of the worst possible tragedies imaginable on Kentucky school buses both in the recent and distant past and out of those awful occurrences we’ve learned that we must be proactive in ensuring pupil transportation safety so that we do all in our power to protect precious lives.”
Terri Hood, who is the transportation director for Fairview Independent Schools, says this is much needed. She’s seen firsthand as drivers went right past her bus.
“You just have this fear, you’re sick to your stomach and your heart is beating out of your chest thinking how close they were to the child,” Hood said. She adds it’s not that uncommon for her to see at least three cars a week pass her bus while her stop sign is out and flashing.
“The safety of our children comes first. If we need cameras everywhere to make sure they are safe, I agree with that.”
The law would impose a $200 fine on violators for a first offense, and a $500 for a second or greater offense within a three-year period.
Data from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services says in 2018, more than 83,000 cars passed buses illegally on a single school day. That was up from 74,000 in 2016.
“People are distracted when they’re driving, they’re in a hurry to go somewhere,” Hood said. “When they see a big yellow school bus, they hurry up to beat the bus because they don’t want to be stuck behind it.”
Hood hopes just the discussion of the bill is enough to get drivers to get familiar with the rules of the road for the safety of children.
Fairview Independent Schools Superintendent Jackie Risden-Smith says she’s grateful to see steps made to protect students, which she calls top priority, but hopes there is financial help to pay for the cameras.
“I am thankful for Representative Goforth’s focus on student safety, as safety is a priority of all superintendents. That said, I am concerned about the impact my district will have with another unfunded mandate. Not only must we consider the cost of cameras but also the bill includes added work. Staff in districts have their plates full. When personnel are already maxed out with responsibilities, implementing procedures for reporting any violations can be costly.”
Goforth says there could be relief in that department.
“Some suppliers provide districts the option of leasing the equipment in exchange for collecting a percentage of the fines recovered from enforcing the violations, essentially at no up-front costs to the districts.”
If the bill passes, schools would have to have the cameras on their buses by Aug. 1, 2023.