Brian Scott, NBC 5 Denton County Reporter
Lewisville ISD is considering expanding the bus safety program and mounting cameras to the outside of school buses to catch drivers who ignore stop-arms and put student safety at risk.
The Lewisville Independent School District is exploring options to install stop arm cameras on their school buses.
An initial presentation was made to the board during last month's meeting calling for the cameras as a way to increase students' safety when getting on and off the bus at stops.
"Safety's a top priority in our district," said district communications director Karen Permetti. "We serve 52,000 students and a majority of our students are served by the buses."
There are several versions of the technology offered by a number of companies, but generally it's a camera or set of cameras mounted in a protective casing near the on-board stop sign. When the arm is extended the camera activates and video is recorded to see if anyone violates the sign and keeps driving through.
Permetti said they're still in the very early phases of discussion and have to cross a lot of bridges before anything can be put in place; that includes working with all 13 municipalities the district serves.
"Work with them to put in place specific ordinances because that's required for the police officers to write tickets," she said.
Bus drivers said the discussion couldn't come at a better time.
Greg Newman, manager of the Lewisville branch of Durham School Services, said his drivers conducted a sampling last week to see how much of a need there is for more policing of the stop arms, and they were shocked by the results.
"We have 270 routes," said Newman, "66 percent of the routes had stop arm violations... most of them had multiple violations."
He said on average drivers who experienced motorists ignoring their stop arms saw about four violators; some reporting many more.
Newman said the local police will follow many of his buses to watch for violators but they can't be on all of those 270 routes at all times.
"It became a hot topic amongst the drivers where they were afraid some of the kids were going to get injured," he said. "We don't want someone to be an example, we want to get out in front of it and make a difference before something happens."
Drivers hope the cameras would help lower the amount of violators and educate those who don't fully understand the protocol when coming up to a stop arm in any neighboring lane of traffic.
Permetti said many of the districts they’ve seen who use the cameras report a drastic decrease in tickets written after the first two years.
The Dallas Independent School District has used stop arm cameras since 2012 and reports such success that they are planning to expand their bus safety systems to include more cameras, GPS tracking systems, and even thumbprint readers to keep a log of which students are on board the bus.
"It's about safety; it's about safety of the kids," said Newman.
A stop arm violation through many of the camera systems, once ticketed by police, can cost a motorist $300 or more. Newman said it's often referred to as "the mother of all tickets" even without the camera systems, and many of the local police in his district will write stop arm tickets for $500 for the first violation and as much as $1,000 for the second.