School Buses Could Be Watching You

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Not stopping when a school bus has its "stop" sign out could soon net drivers a $300 citation -- even if a police officer isn't around.

The agency that runs Dallas school buses is testing camera equipment that can record the passing vehicle and its tag number. Plans call for $300 citations.

In a recent survey, drivers of Dallas County Schools' 1,245 buses on the road witnessed 769 crossing-zone violations in one day.

"We need a deterrent," said Larry Duncan, president of the agency's board. "It's not just education; that has proven not to be enough. We have to educate and we have to enforce."

Dallas County Schools provides services such as transportation, technology and psychological services to independent school districts throughout Texas.

The agency wants Dallas and other cities it serves to pass a law that would establish a school zone wherever a school bus is stopped. Cameras could then enforce the rules.

"There's no cost to the city of Dallas for this," said Dallas County Schools Superintendent Rick Sorrells.

Dallas County Schools has found a vendor that would install and monitor the camera equipment and then send the citations. The costs would be covered by money from the citations.

Duncan said any remaining money would go toward other safety programs.

The agency wanted the program in place before school starts again this fall.

But some Dallas City Council members expressed concerns during a Public Safety Committee briefing on the plan Monday.

"It seems like maybe this is an atom bomb when maybe we could be shooting some bullets to try to alert the public," Councilwoman Ann Margolin said.

Some city leaders recalled the complications Dallas faced with red-light cameras, which were intended to improve traffic safety by reducing red-light running.

At first, red-light cameras were at first a big moneymaker. But Texas lawmakers added rules to give the state a cut of the revenue, and red-light running sharply declined as drivers learned to avoid the cameras.

"Sometimes there's unintended consequences when you try to do something right," Councilman Ron Natinsky said.

Dallas County Schools said it wants police to review bus violation pictures. Citation money would also cover that expense.

Dallas Police Chief David Brown said he has many questions about the proposal.

"I'm willing to work overtime and look at it and vet through this process," he said.

Public Safety Committee members supported the concept, but said Dallas County Schools leaders will have to be patient as City Hall reviews the details.

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