SAISD Buses Will Photograph Drivers Breaking Law, Passing Stopped Buses

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Side mounted cameras monitor the traffic and movement on the flanks of the school bus.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Side-mounted cameras monitor the traffic and movement on the flanks of a school bus.

As of Monday, drivers who pass stopped San Antonio Independent School District buses will receive a warning. But beginning Oct. 1, they’ll get a $300 fine.

All 200 SAISD buses have been outfitted with cameras that automatically take photos of drivers who pass a school bus when its stop arm is displayed and its lights are flashing. District officials hope the system will increase driver awareness of school buses and children’s safety.

In 2016, the San Antonio City Council created an ordinance penalizing drivers who pass stopped school buses. State law already requires drivers coming from either side of the road to stop when they see a school bus with flashing lights and a displayed stop sign.

Nathan Graf, senior executive director of Transportation and Vehicle Maintenance at SAISD, said each bus is equipped with multiple cameras.

“The sides, front and back — we have no blind spots on the outside of the bus,” Graf said. “And on the inside, we have a complete view of anyone getting on the bus, the driver, and all the seating area the kids can sit in as well.”

School bus enhancements won’t just include cameras, according to district spokeswoman Leslie Price.

“We’re pleased that we’re not only going to be getting more safety equipment, but the technology will include the interior and exterior cameras, real-time data, silent alarms, and a student tracker system,” she said.

As part of its contract with the district, camera vendor American Traffic Solutions also agreed to equip all SAISD buses with Wi-Fi. By December, 30 percent of buses will have Wi-Fi capability, and all 200 should be connected by the end of the school year.

The real-time access to cameras and silent alarm capability will roll out at the same as the Wi-Fi. The student tracker system, which assigns ID cards to students from pre-K through elementary, will first be implemented on 20 Head Start routes, and then rolled out to the rest of the buses. The ID cards will keep track of which students get on the bus, and where they get off.

From now until Sept. 30, the district will be working to make people aware of the law governing stopped school buses. Because SAISD started school on Aug. 13, school bus cameras have already recorded footage of drivers breaking the law, Price said.

The district does not have to pay for the safety system, but will share a portion of revenue generated from citations with the company. This year, SAISD will receive 15 percent of revenue while the rest goes to American Traffic Solutions. The district’s percentage will increase each year and by the fifth year, SAISD’s share will be 35 percent.

Before the City passed its ordinance, four school districts had set up bus-camera pilot programs to collect data on car safety problems around stopped school buses. North East ISD alone found 598 violations through seven camera-equipped school buses during the 2012-2013 school year.

Five school districts have bus-camera programs in place. Judson, North East, South San, Southside, and Southwest ISDs issued more than $5 million in civil penalties through 18,823 citations during the 2016-2017 school year. Violators paid back less than half, about $2 million.

More than a dozen other Texas cities have passed civil penalty ordinances for disregarding stopped buses since 2012, including Dallas, Austin, and San Marcos.

5 thoughts on “SAISD Buses Will Photograph Drivers Breaking Law, Passing Stopped Buses

  1. DO NOT PAY THESE TICKETS

    Under Texas Transportation Code 707, you do not have to pay these civil penalties. The city cannot:

    1. Report it to your insurance
    2. Report it to credit bureaus
    3. Report it to your insurance
    4. Issue a warrant
    5. Block your registration

    Bexar County will not block vehicle registration of ‘scofflaws’ for red light and bus cameras. Counties have that option in Texas. The only thing that might happen is that you won’t be able to register online. So walk in to the office, it takes 3 minutes, and register your car.

    This is a money grab for the districts, but moreso for the private companies. They don’t do anything but make distracted drivers who are worried about the cameras, and then slam on their brakes. Cut the BS

  2. What legal grounds does SAISD stand on aside from the city and what do they plan to do to enforce those that break the “law” to pay the civil fines? Has the State weighed in? Also, who is managing the incoming revenue? I’ve seen cases of bribery such as that by Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells.

  3. When you are driving around school zones it is only logical school buses may be in the area and Children may be crossing streets.
    People need to get pass if a ticket is legal or not. We are talking about Children and their safety. Kids will do things that are, well just being kids. When they are getting on and off a school bus or walking down the street kids will be kids. Just be careful and anticipate the worse.

  4. I watched the video. I wonder if those drivers even know the law. In some cases, besides the stopped-bus’s stop-sign and flashing light, there were crosswalks(!), which the drivers also ran. Those drivers should go back to square one.

  5. It’s really sad and pathetic to me we have people on here like Jorge telling people not to pay these tickets. These are our children- these are school buses and bus drivers. This is for safety- and all you people can think about is your own selfish lazy selves and how to get out of paying a well deserved fine! Again- you people are the people the rest of us are forced to co-exist with when you should be slammed in jail behind bars until you learn common respect and decency. Way to be a productive part of society.

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