Ken Kalthoff, NBC 5 News
The Dallas City Council approved the plan to impose $300 fines on violators caught passing school buses by cameras mounted on the sides of Dallas County buses.
Dallas on Wednesday became the first North Texas city to make school bus cameras a traffic safety weapon.
The City Council approved a plan to impose $300 fines on drivers photographed passing school buses.
Cameras mounted on buses will snap pictures of vehicles that pass them while they are stopped for children, as well as their tag numbers.
The agency that runs school buses in the city, Dallas County Schools, will have cameras installed in the entire fleet by the time school starts in August.
A Dallas County Schools survey found that every bus it put on the road was passed at least once while it was stopped, and some of them were passed many times.
"That's 1,650 buses, 60,000 kids every day -- that's a nightmare," said Larry Duncan, Dallas County Schools board president. "This will help us provide safety."
The program will be much like red-light camera enforcement -- except those citations are only $75 in Dallas.
The money from school-bus citations will pay for school crossing guards.
"I think we've worked out a good deal to make sure the crossing guards are not on the city budget any more but, most importantly, this is the lives of little boys and girls," Mayor Mike Rawlings said.
Drivers said they have mixed feelings about another law enforcement plan that uses cameras.
"A lot of times, people just ignore those school buses and we can't have that," said driver John Mullen.
"People take pictures on YouTube, cellphones, so why would it be a problem if the police are catching the criminals?" driver Ronda Robertson said.
But Jerome Kee said the red-light cameras are sometimes inaccurate and he worries the school bus cameras could be, too.
"I think that the police should be there," he said. "That's why the taxpayers pay them. We don't pay for these cameras to act."
The Dallas County Schools program will have a certified peace officer review the pictures before citations are sent to drivers by mail.
The citations will start going out in August.