EFFINGHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - The 2019-2020 school year is the first full school year the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office will use cameras attached to some school busses to catch people breaking the law. WTOC’s Romney Smith investigates how successful the program has been so far and exactly how it works.
The Effingham County School System has 125 busses that run hundreds of routes a day and they want to make sure all 1,500 students make it to and from home safely. Now, they have a few extra lenses watching out to help keep all those kids safe. There are now a few new school bus stop arm cameras attached to the side of some Effingham County school busses.
Brett Martin, the Effingham County School Board Transportation Director says they were installed to benefit the students on board.
“Our goal and our mission is to transport students safely. That’s what we’re here for and that’s what our job is for,” says Martin.
Gena Sullivan, the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office’s Public Information Officer, says last semester a few school busses received the specialized stop arm safety cameras and they were tested out during pick up and drop off times.
“We went for a while where we were giving people a chance to get used to it, then we finally issued citations and we’ve issued seven,” says Sullivan.
Four citations were issued on Columbia Avenue, two on Highway 80, and one on McCall Road. Sullivan explains how the camera program works.
“A camera takes a picture of their car, the driver, the tag, and its actually got a video attached as well. Then, that goes in front of some of our deputies and they look at it to make sure it’s a violation and then they get issued a citation,” says Sullivan.
The ticket for illegally passing a stopped school bus will cost you $250. Lt. Mike Hatcher with the Georgia Department of Public Safety Motor Compliance Division says it’s not an income generator, it’s all about safety.
“We want to avoid any accidents. We don’t want any child injured or a fatality,“ says Hatcher.
Local school and public safety officials have the ability to place the stop arm cameras on different busses in case they get complaints about people passing the bus in a certain area. They admit there is still a lot of confusion about when you can and can’t pass a school bus.
“If you are on the opposite side of the roadway and there is a divided median, meaning it’s grass or a raised concrete median, you DO NOT have to stop,” says Sullivan.
But, if you’re behind a school bus, you have to stop when the stop arm is deployed.
If you are a repeat violator of the school bus stop sign camera and receive multiple school bus stop arm camera tickets, you can get points on your driver’s license.