School bus cameras help catch lawbreakers

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by JADE MINGUS / KVUE News and photojournalist J.P. HARRINGTON

Bio | Email | Follow: @JadeM_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on February 17, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 17 at 9:40 PM

SAN MARCOS, Texas -- Red lights are flashing, the stop sign is out and a maroon car whizzes by a school bus picking up students on Aquarena Springs Drive in San Marcos. 

It's an illegal move that happens again, in the very same spot, when another bus picks up older children. 

"I get a lot of people going by, both directions sometimes," said bus driver Jack Mutschlechner, who sees drivers put students in danger everyday. "I see a lot of people talking on the phone, texting or just not paying attention."

Now, all 82 school buses in San Marcos are equipped with seven cameras. 

In January, they recorded drivers breaking the law, passing stopped school buses all over the city.

Some drivers don't stop in the opposite lanes of traffic, which is also illegal. It's only allowed if a permanent barrier divides the road. 

"These cameras are monitored in real time from an operations center in Dallas. Once they find a violation, they send them to the San Marcos police department. If officers agree, they send a citation," said transportation director Carter Hutson. "I don’t think any driver would want to live the rest of their lives thinking they injured or killed a child just because they were in a hurry."

Hutson says a pilot program caught 2,360 drivers illegally passing a bus just since the beginning of the school year. 

During the pilot program, drivers got a warning. Now they'll get a $300 ticket. Police send citations to the registered owner of the vehicle.

BusGuard provides the camera systems for free, but keeps 75 percent, or $225 of each $300 citation. 

The remaining 25 percent is split between San Marcos CISD and the city.

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