The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Senator Jim Holzapfel (R-10) that seeks to deter dangerous driving that may harm children as they board or exit a school bus.
The legislation, S211, establishes a pilot program for municipalities and school districts to use video monitoring systems to help enforce laws against illegally passing a school bus.
“We need to show drivers who think they can get away with passing a school bus that they are being watched,” said Holzapfel. “Sadly, this might be the only we get them to stop.”
The 2013-2014 National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey found that approximately half of the fatalities occurred as children crossing a street to board or after exiting a school bus were hit by passing vehicles that ignored the flashing lights and extended stop sign on the bus that require them to stop.
Without the use of cameras, drivers know they are unlikely to receive a ticket for illegally passing a school bus unless a police officer is present to witness the violation or the bus driver manages to write down their license plate number, which rarely happens.
Camera systems will allow police departments and school districts to consistently identify and cite drivers who break the law. The legislation requires that a police officer review recorded footage to determine when a citation should be issued.
Drivers who receive tickets resulting from footage captured with a camera system would be subject to a fine of $300 to $500. Points would not be assessed as a result of violations generated with the assistance of cameras.
The measure is designed to prevent incidents like the Jan. 6, collision that sent a 14-year-old girl to the hospital. Reports indicated she was hit by a car when she was crossing the road to get to her school bus in Upper Township, Cape May County.
“Luckily, this young girl wasn’t killed in this accident,” added Holzapfel. “But we hear about this all the time from bus drivers. Even if they have their lights on, drivers still try to pass them. This foolish and dangerous behavior has to stop, and it won’t stop unless we can monitor it and enforce our laws.”