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North Carolina

Pilot Testing of Bus Stoparm Video Camera Systems (Click HERE to read the report)

The Problem

 

During a one-day count in 2012, North Carolina school bus drivers witnessed 3,196 vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses at 2,299 bus stops. These violations occurred while the buses were stopped, stoparm extended with flashing red lights, and children were in the process of embarking or disembarking buses. These one-day school stoparm violation reports have been collected by North Carolina public schools since 1999 (right) and they reveal a persistent problem which exposes school children to danger at bus stops.

The Solution: Legislative & Technology Approaches

In the last ten years, North Carolina legislature's have passed successive bills that increased penalties and closed loopholes on school stoparm violations (Table 1). The 2009, House Bill 440 (Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act in memory of the 16 year old student killed when a driver did not stop for a stopped school bus), added one critical provision to an existing law - allowing the use of automated camera and video recording systems to detect and prosecute violators.
NC School Bus Stop Arm Legislations
2001, House Bill 774
  • Rental car companies must display notification of NC school bus stop arm law in English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish
2005, House Bill 1400
  • Increased penalty from Class 2 misdemeanor to Class 1
• Class I felony if willfully causing bodily injury
2006, House Bill 2880
  • No prayer for judgment continue under any circumstances
2007, Senate Bill 924
  • Removed the reference of 8” letter signage height requirement
• Class I felony if strikes any person regardless of bodily injury
2009 , House Bill 440 (Nicholas Adkins School Bus Safety Act)
  • Class H felony if resulting in death
• Allow the use of automated camera and video recording systems to detect and prosecute violations

House Bill 440 opened up an opportunity to use video technology to capture illegal passing events, vehicle makes, models, license numbers, and most importantly, images of the offending drivers. These are all required elements in order to seek stoparm violation prosecution in North Carolina. The technology to capture the passing event and vehicle information can be retooled using the traditional onboard school bus camera system. However, these camera systems have often failed to capture the offending driver’s image.

In 2011, with funding from the North Carolina Governors Highway Safety Program, North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the Institute for Transportation Research and Education at NC State University, issued a Request for Proposal for a dedicated stoparm violation camera system capable of capturing the passing event, vehicle information, and violator’s images.

In the summer of 2011, the first camera system built by Fortress Mobile of Charlotte, NC was installed on buses in Iredell County. In the following months, additional camera systems were installed in Carteret, Rowan, Stoke, and Wake counties. The stoparm violation camera system consists of multiple high resolution video cameras that are calibrated and mounted at strategic locations outside the bus (left & below)

These exterior and interior video cameras are recording continuously during a bus route. The recording system captures the following bus activities: speed, braking, deployment of amber warning lights and deployment of stoparm (below).

 

Once a stoparm violation is observed, the bus driver triggers a sensor to time-mark the video. Embedded with GPS and mapping, the playback software enables the transportation department to study the passing events in detail. They can toggle through different cameras to study the image frame by frame with local law enforcement.

View the Rowan County Video

The offending driver had more than sufficient time to stop. Notice the student checking phone while crossing the road. The driver pleaded guilty to the stoparm violation.

View the Wake County Video

The offending driver was issued a citation and the case was continued 4 times. At the last court date the subpoenaed bus driver fail to show and the case was dismissed.

View the Jones County Video

Three students disembark the bus, vehicle committed the violation at high school between the second and third students’ crossing. No citation was issued due to equipment problem.

View the Cumberland County Video

Video from earlier camera system captured 7 vehicles passing from behind on 4-lane roadway with medium separation. No citation was issued because this system was not designed to capture offend driver’s image.

As of October 2012, 23 stop arm violation citations have been issued among the 5 piloting counties as a result of the camera system. Out of the 23 citations, 14 pleaded guilty, 3 hired attorneys but pleaded guilty, 1 was found guilty but is appealing. The remaining 5 citations are pending in the court.

Challenges Remain

Even though the stoparm violation camera system has shown success in these pilot school districts, we are faced with two challenges.

First, the court system is slow processing citations. If the transportation department staff is subpoenaed to appear in the court, it will take a good portion of their workday sitting in the court. If the case is continued multiple times, it places significant demand on the staff who is subpoenaed. Some county courts only subpoena law enforcement who have reviewed the video for the trial and do not subpoena the transportation staff. Work remains in learning how the judicial system works.

Second, the ultimate goal is to prevent stoparm violations from occurring. These violations expose children to grave danger. There is much to learn from these violations. For example; why are drivers not stopping for the stoparm? Is it due to driver distraction or lack of familiarity with the law? or confusing school bus warning signals?

Sample Video footage: 1, 2, 3, 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
 
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