School bus cameras help hold drivers accountable

Published: Feb. 25, 2020 at 7:18 PM CST
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A year after the Beloit Turner School District installed cameras on three school buses, school officials and police said the cameras allow them to hold drivers accountable when their actions put kids in danger.

NBC15 sat down with the school district to find out what kind of impact the program has had. This came two weeks after a

while waiting for her school bus in Plainfield when a driver drove by the bus on the right side.

School officials in Beloit said they are grateful nothing like that has happened to them, and they hope the camera system has made people think twice about passing a stopped school bus.

David Schneider has driven school buses for the Beloit Turner School District for six years.

"There's been some close calls as far as them going by fast," Schneider admitted of some drivers he sees on the road.

Schneider said he is shocked by how many people drive past his bus, even when the stop arm is out and the red lights are flashing.

"Before I started driving a bus, I didn't think it happened at all," Schneider said.

In April 2019, the school district wanted to hold those drivers accountable. The

, including the bus Schneider drives.

"The technology is awesome on it," Schneider said of the cameras.

If a driver passes Schneider's bus, Schneider just has to hit a button. District officials can later identify the car from the camera footage.

"We can zoom in and get the license plate, make and model," Schneider explained.

That information is turned over to the Town of Beloit Police Department. The cameras capture all the information police need, so they no longer have to rely on reports just from bus drivers.

"When we would receive those bus reports from bus drivers, there wasn't enough detailed information," explained Town of Beloit Lieutenant Bryan Hasse, who has been handling a lot of the reports.

Since the school district started using the cameras, they have recorded around 140 violations. According to Hasse, from those reports, police have been able to issue 126 citations.

In the two school years before cameras were installed, police issued less than 10 citations each year. In just the first three months of the cameras being installed, April to June 2019, police issued 35 citations.

"We started to see a great influx of reports submitted to us," Hasse said.

Schneider said he has seen the impact of the cameras firsthand.

"Because of the camera, [drivers are] more aware of it I think," he explained.

In fall of 2019, the district considered expanding the program and installing cameras on all the buses but decided not to, citing financial reasons. Putting cameras on all buses would cost at least $50,000.

Superintendent Dennis McCarthy explained that when choosing the three buses that would have cameras, district officials focused on routes where bus drivers saw the most problems.