Forsyth County Schools and the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office are about to start an initiative they think will improve the safety of children entering and exiting school buses.
On Tuesday, the Forsyth County Board of Education unanimously approved a measure that will place cameras on the stop arms of Forsyth County Schools buses, aimed at catching vehicles ignoring the signs.
“Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is proud to partner with the Forsyth County Board of Education in an effort to further protect our children,” said Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman.
Freeman said he and Forsyth County Schools Superintendent Jeff Bearden met earlier this year to formulate a plan to tackle the problem.
“We agreed that we had to be proactive when it comes to protecting children, even on our buses. We were both adamant it had to be about safety and not about revenue generation,” Freeman said.
According to Mike Satterfield, director of transportation for Forsyth County Schools, the new cameras will potentially generate revenues of $300-$1,000 per violation and will cost the county nothing.
Satterfield said revenues from tickets will be split with American Traffic Solutions, or ATS, the company that makes the sign arm camera and that the company will supply the cameras and deal with the upkeep.
In a statement given to the board, Todd Shirley, chief operations officer for Forsyth County Schools, said the cameras would function much like a traffic camera, snapping pictures of both the offending driver’s front and back license plate.
This initiative will start with a small rollout of 30 cameras placed with buses in areas with the highest potential for violation. If successful, it could lead to each of the more than 300 buses in Forsyth County Schools having its own camera.
Satterfield said that on April 26, 2017, there were 189 instances of vehicles passing stopped buses in Forsyth County, and that the number is pretty average for the county on a daily basis.
“When you have the kind of traffic we have and the number of buses we have, that number is pretty average unfortunately,” Satterfield said.
According to Maj. Tom Patton with the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, only a small percentage of citations for violations of stop arms are issued each year.
He said that 186 citations for violations of stop arms have been recorded for the current year, and that the low number is largely due to how dangerous it is for law enforcement to pursue violators.
“If it’s dangerous for one vehicle to pass a bus with the stop arm out, it’s certainly dangerous for two to do it,” Patton said. “That’s why automated enforcement is advantageous and safer.”
Patton noted that under the new system citations issued by the cameras will be downgraded to civil violations with no actions being taken against the offender’s license.