Children are at risk
School bus stop-arm cameras aren't just an idea — the data shows us that they’re integral to keep students safe. Injuries and fatalities while riding on school buses are relatively uncommon occurrences — incidents outside the bus, when riders are boarding, leaving, or crossing the street, are more likely to result in devastating outcomes. Blow-bys — when other vehicles pass a stopped school bus that has its stop-arm extended and lights flashing — put children at risk, especially when crossing the street.
A number of studies across various Ontario jurisdictions demonstrate that the rates of vehicles blowing by busses are high, with provincial statistics indicating there are over 30,000 blow-bys a day in Ontario. Some parents are so worried about their children's safety that they have started recording incidents from their front yards. Impatient drivers speeding by a stopped school bus runs the risk of catastrophic incidents, potentially hitting children when they’re crossing the road.
Legislative changes for safer roads
The solution? Installation of a camera system that records when drivers speed by a stopped school bus. Ontario has proposed new regulations that allow for evidentiary technology solutions, allowing court cases to use camera footage captured on board the bus. Previously, a witness would be required in court to support any allegations. Regulating the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses allows for more efficient enforcement and prosecution.
The province has been working on this for years, inspired by the February 2000 death of five-year-old Adam Ranger, killed by a driver after stepping off a school bus in Mattawa, Ontario. While the province will introduce the regulation, implementation lies with municipalities. Mattawa, Ontario was the first jurisdiction on board with school bus cameras, working with BusPatrol for installation while Ottawa started to kit out their fleet for the 2019 school year. Most recently, Peel Region has been considering the school bus cameras, directing staff to issue a feasibility study to city council. Despite delays throughout 2020, the Peel is still considering installing school bus cameras across their fleets.
School bus cameras, a high tech solution
To be held up in court, the technology in school bus cameras needs to be sophisticated, impenetrable, and reliable. One of the most widely used models, BusPatrol, has taken it one step further — CEO Jean Souliere shares that "[w]e have artificial intelligence embedded in our cameras as well as in the recorder, the computer and DVR brain that is loaded inside every box to identify vehicles that illegally pass the stop-arm."
In Ontario, school bus cameras will capture the vehicle description and licence plate, tracing the offence back to the vehicle owner. While this may not seem like a perfect science, as the driver may not be the vehicle owner, it is the best option for enforcement. The image capture provides sufficient evidence for court proceedings.
The enhanced technology allows for upgraded connectivity, as well as security. Video footage is stored on a secure server, preserving the evidentiary chain of custody. Manufacturers and municipalities hope that this will promote safer behaviour and greater accountability amongst drivers, prompting them to think twice about travelling past a stopped school bus.
In Ontario, drivers that pass a school bus when the stop-arm is activated and flashing lights are illuminated face an initial fine of $400 to $2,000, in addition to six demerit points. Subsequent offences carry penalties of $1,000 to $4,000, with an additional six demerit points and possible jail time. With the introduction of stop-arm cameras in Ontario, penalties are issued to the vehicle owner, even if they weren't driving at the time of the offence.
Prepare for changes
As technology continues to evolve, the applications are further reaching than ever before — including law enforcement. Red light and speed enforcement cameras have been adopted across Ontario, and school bus stop-arm cameras only extend automated enforcement with the intent of increasing compliance and improving safety on our roads. Check with your municipality regarding new automated enforcement, and drive safely on the road . Your best bet is to avoid a ticket!