Districts consider school bus cameras to catch drivers passing illegally

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by SHANNON MURRAY / KVUE NEWS and photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @ShannonM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on October 8, 2013 at 5:13 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 8 at 5:20 PM

Warning: Video contains brief, disturbing image.

LAKE TRAVIS, Texas -- Some Central Texas school districts are making a push to protect children by putting cameras on more school buses not to record what happens on the bus, but to catch what's happening outside it.

The Lake Travis Independent School District is one of several that participated in a 90-day pilot program called Bus Guard. It targets drivers who pass buses stopped to let kids on or off. School representatives say the numbers are so telling, they're ready to equip every bus with the cameras.

As a bus driver Marisa Gutierrez is looking out for the safety of the kids and other drivers on the road.

"We're always cautious as bus drivers, looking ahead, but sometimes you just, you only have two sets of eyes," Gutierrez said.

There could soon be another set of eyes on the bus. Cameras installed on one Lake Travis school bus caught 91 drivers in 90 days passing illegally.

"It can be a little dangerous when they try to cut us off or try to get in front of us, or beat us to a stop, or beat us to a light," Gutierrez explained.

"It's a huge responsibility to be a bus driver, and there's a lot that is asked of a bus driver," said Lake Travis ISD Spokesperson Marco Alvarado.

Alvarado says last year a driver hit one of their students.

"Thankfully it was not a severe injury, but again, lesson learned is one student too many," he said.

The district has approved installing cameras permanently on the buses. Now they just need to get Bee Cave and Lakeway on board as well since city police issue the tickets.

If the City agrees to move forward, all of the buses in the district will be equipped with the cameras at no cost to the district or the taxpayer.

Violators will receive a $300 ticket in the mail. Seventy-five percent of the ticket goes to the company that installs the cameras, Force Multiplier Solutions. The rest is split between the City and the school district.

"Having a bit of revenue at the end of the day that we could see is great, but that is not the reason why we're doing this," said Alvarado.

"We don't want to damage anyone's vehicle, and we don't want to damage our vehicle and especially with the kids on board," said Gutierrez.

If everything is approved, installation could begin as early as next year.

Several other districts participated in the pilot program at the end of the last school year. Round Rock recorded 45 violations. Leander recorded 66. There were 223 in Killeen and 93 in Belton.

Bus Guard installed cameras on 15 school buses in San Marcos this year. They've already caught more than 600 violators.

Dallas County schools have fully implemented the program. Last year they had more than 30,000 violations.

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