Stop for the bus or get a ticket, said the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office in a post on Facebook Thursday morning, warning drivers that a new system aimed to stop vehicles from illegally passing school buses will roll out Monday morning.
According to the post, Monday, April 30 will mark the start of a new initiative aimed at stopping vehicles from illegally passing school buses and placing students in danger by using a sophisticated system of cameras on the stop sign arm of school buses in Forsyth County.
“No warning, no grace period, boom. If you pass a school bus Monday morning at 6 a.m., you are getting a ticket,” said Cpl. Doug Rainwater, spokesman for the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
In January, the plan was to roll out 30 buses with the cameras. Rainwater said that he couldn’t give an exact number of buses that would have the new cameras, but he said they would be placed on bus routes where most of the violations take place.
“There is really never any reason to pass a stopped school bus, which seriously endangers our children,” said the Facebook post. “Citizens have repeatedly expressed their concerns regarding drivers passing school busses; so the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office partnered with Forsyth County Schools to implement this system as another stride in keeping our students safe.”
Forsyth County School’s Directory of Communication, Jennifer Caracciolo said that any fines generated by the cameras will be split with the camera manufacturer American Traffic Solutions (ATS), who will bear the responsibility of installing, updating and upkeeping the cameras. Caracciolo said 60 percent of any fines generated will go to ATS and 40 percent will be retained by the county.
Rainwater said that Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman has promised to put any money the sheriff’s office receives from citations back into the school system for new school resource officers.
The post said that when the stop arm is extended and students are entering and exiting the bus, the camera system will automatically detect vehicles passing from the front or behind the bus, record video evidence of the violation and take an image of the vehicle’s license.
“Violators who are caught on camera will receive a citation from the Forsyth County Sheriff's Office, a $300 fine for the first offense,” the post said.
Rainwater said that all evidence gathered by the cameras will be reviewed by a sergeant or corporal with the sheriff’s office, and that individual will choose to accept or reject the violation.
“If law enforcement approves the violation, a citation is issued and mailed to the vehicle owner,” the post said.
In December, when the idea was initially presented to the Forsyth County Board of Education, Mike Satterfield, director of transportation for Forsyth County Schools, told the FCN that the new cameras will potentially generate revenues of as high as $1,000 per violation in the future and will cost the county nothing.
Rainwater said that if Georgia House Bill 673, colloquially called the “hands-free driving bill,” is signed by Georgia Governor Nathan Deal, drivers passing school buses will face fines of $250, $750 and $1,000 for repeat violations.
He said that under the new bill, a violator’s vehicle tag will be “flagged” and prohibited from being renewed until the fine is paid.
“We didn’t partner with [Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office] because we want your money,” Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden tweeted Thursday. “We formed this partnership and program because we want to keep our children safe!”
If the initial rollout is successful, authorities agree it could lead to each of the more than 300 buses in Forsyth County Schools having its own camera.