School bus cameras help catch drivers passing illegally

BELOIT, Wis. (WMTV) -- The Beloit Turner School District is two weeks into a pilot program putting cameras on a few of their school buses. The district started the program in an effort to better identify people passing stopped school buses illegally.

The buses with cameras started running on April 1. Since then, the school has seen and reported over 20 violations -- more than one a day.

The issue was brought up earlier this year, when bus drivers told Superintendent Dennis McCarthy that cars constantly passed illegally, making it dangerous for students getting on and off.

"They were telling us this is happening on a daily basis and we need to find a better way to deal with this before someone gets hurt," McCarthy said.

The school district installed cameras on three buses in their fleet to record the incidents. Installing the cameras cost between $7,000 and $8,000.

Now, bus drivers on those buses can push a button if they see a car pass them illegally, and the cameras record. The school can then review the video and report the violation to the Town of Beloit Police Department.

"The video is very clear and it's easy to see the license plate number, so I would say that so far, it's a success," said Lieutenant Bryan Hasse with the Town of Beloit Police Department.

The police department can use that information to track down the drivers and issue citations, which include fines over $200. Hasse said the police department has issued over 20 citations since April 1.

"Sometimes it takes people receiving fines for violating those laws for them to learn that it's an important issue and it's a safety factor," he said.

McCarthy said the program is already starting to bring attention to the issue, and he hopes the awareness will continue to spread.

"This is happening nationwide, and as schools, as citizens in our communities, we all need to be aware of the problem that's occurring," he said.

In fall, the school district will bring data from the pilot program to the board in the fall and discuss expanding the program to all 22 buses on the fleet. McCarthy said that would cost at least $50,000.