School bus cameras focus on dangerous motorists

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by SHELLY SLATER

Bio | Email | Follow: @wfaashelly

WFAA

Posted on November 2, 2011 at 10:00 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 3 at 8:23 AM

The Dallas County Schools bus system transports 60,000 kids every day in several districts.

Now, it's going high-tech to protect your kids.

New digital cameras are being installed inside and outside the buses. That means motorists who pass a bus with its STOP sign deployed will be caught on tape.

There's just one problem: The county can't get lawmakers to step up and make those violations count.

The digital cameras now have been installed in 475 buses, with more being added every day. For Dallas County Schools board president Larry Duncan, the pictures of violators hit home.

"'Aggravating' is not the word; it doesn't even come close," he said. "It's kids' lives at stake."

Dallas County has already paid more than $3 million for the real-time digital cameras aboard its buses after a pilot program proved local drivers aren't paying attention.

"In 30 days, every trip... for every bus... had at least one violation, sometimes as many as 10," Duncan said. "That is our worst nightmare."

And with that, the county says it can have up 5,000 violations recorded on-camera every day.

If a police officer catches you doing this, it can cost up to $1,000. But the county wants to be able to ticket you without the requirement of a police officer being present.

But the idea of letting the county create a civil fine for catching drivers in the act has been turned down twice now by state lawmakers in Austin.

"No one is willing to say they're against it; it just never comes to a vote," Duncan said. "It gets caught in the labyrinth of the legislation down in Austin."

Larry Duncan said he's now approaching the City of Dallas to see if leaders can create a city ordinance in place of a state law.

"It's our kids and their lives; we have to keep on," Duncan said.

E-mail sslater@wfaa.com

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