VIRGINIA BEACH — In order to curb illegal passing of school buses, Virginia Beach City Public Schools has installed exterior cameras to 100 of its buses.
Under Virginia Code, drivers approaching a school bus are prohibited from passing if the bus’s stop-arm is extended or its red lights are flashing.
Even if the red lights have only begun flashing and the stop-arm is not yet fully extended, drivers are still required to stop until all students have finished loading or unloading and the school bus is back in motion.
An exception to the rule is if a driver’s vehicle is separated from a school bus by a solid barrier or median.
A company called Verra Mobility provided the hardware and monitoring services the buses are outfitted with, said David Tace, executive director of the office of Transportation and Fleet Services for VBCPS.
He said Verra Mobility provides the equipment and then are repaid over time by the fines generated from those caught illegally passing a school bus.
Tace said the school district and the superintendent are not hoping to get a lot of fines out of the cameras but rather have less and less motorists illegally passing school buses.
A 2018 National Stop Arm Violation Count survey by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services revealed that on a single day across 38 states as well as the District of Columbia, 83,944 vehicles passed school buses illegally.
Those results point to more than 15 million violations across the span of a school year.
It is the school district’s hope that by implementing the cameras, people will be less likely to pass school buses, Tace said.
The cameras are activated by sensors when a bus’s stop-arm is deployed.
The camera can detect a vehicle passing in any direction and capture license plates as well as the vehicle’s GPS location.
Where the money goes
The way the agreement between Verra Mobility and the school district works is that Verra Mobility will get 55 percent of the money generated from the fines, Tace said.
The school district relies on the Virginia Beach Police Department to work with Verra Mobility to determine if a fine is necessary.
“Without the police department, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish this,” Tace said.
The other 45 percent of the money generated from fines will go back to the school district, he said.
Tace hopes to bring the information he has on the new program to the region meeting later this February — he said he wants to show other school districts how the camera program works.
For the first six months or so of the program the school district will closely monitor how it’s going, he said.
The 100 school buses chosen were picked because they had a track record of being illegally passed before, Tace said.
Once the school district has been able to sufficiently monitor the program, officials will decide what the next steps will be.