AUSTIN -- Whether it's a residential area or a busier part of town, Austin drivers just can't seem to stop for school buses. Every day, bus drivers with the school district claim they see cars zooming past them.
According to the Austin Independent School District, drivers pass school buses when red lights are flashing at least 60 times a day -- and that's just a fraction of its fleet.
But that trend may change after an AISD announcement made Monday. The school board approved American Traffic Solutions, a law that states motorists must stop behind the school bus if they see the red lights.
Austin ISD also decided to put more cameras on school buses after those violations were found in a pilot program for stop-arm cameras. When the district's transportation director decided to tackle this issue a few years ago, they didn't know just how big the need was.
Once all the logistics are worked out, American Traffic Solutions will begin installation of video cameras on the arms of school bus stop signs to record drivers passing the bus while the red lights are flashing and the stop-arm is deployed.
Violations -- which will come with a $300 fine -- will be governed through AISD's police department, and there will even be a process to appeal. District officials said any cost of equipment will be covered by revenue that comes in from these citations. If an Austin police officer sees drivers violating the law, they will issue a $500 ticket.
Any extra revenue will be split between the vendor and the district; but the district hopes that a change in driving habits with be most beneficial.
"Just be careful with our school buses when we are loading and unloading," said AISD Transportation Director Kris Hafezizadeh. "Don't pass them. It takes a few seconds to [get] where you're going, but the lives of our children are more important than just a few seconds."
Initially, the district expects cameras to be installed on all regular route buses -- which is about 300. They'll then be installed on other buses on a case-by-case basis. Special needs buses pick up and drop off at each home, so traffic safety is usually not a problem.
Cars traveling behind the school bus and toward the bus must stop when the red lights are flashing. However, if there is a raised medium in the middle of the road, cars coming toward the school bus do not need to stop.
Hafezizadeh recalled a collision last year that involved a driver and a middle school student on Montopolis Drive. Hafezizadeh said the student is fine, but close calls happen all the time.
He hopes the cameras will help keep the 22,000 students who take the bus every day safe, especially as drivers have more distractions.
AISD said that since they're starting from the ground up -- developing the actual ticketing system and workflow -- it will likely be at least a month before any cameras are installed.