- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses throughout the state.
- The cameras would serve as a student safety measure by recording drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus displaying a stop sign and stop arm. Drivers caught passing a stopped bus face a $250 fine, those with a second violation in 18 months face an additional $275 fine, and individuals with a third violation in that time frame face another $300.
- Local school district leaders will decide whether to install the cameras on their buses. They would split revenue gained from fines with municipalities. Cities will pay for the cameras and installation.
Currently, only police officers who witness a driver illegally passing a bus can issue a ticket for the violation. The stop-arm cameras have the potential to greatly expand the number of violators caught.
All cities that adopt this program must submit an annual report on the program results to the governor. It must include data such as the number of buses in the district, description of routes, how many stop-arm cameras were used, the number of passing violations recorded, the number of adjudicated violations, expenses incurred, the amount of fines paid and total revenue collected under the program.
More than a dozen other states already have adopted stop-arm camera legislation. The lion's share have done so within the past seven years. School zone speed cameras and connected internet of things (IoT) flashing school zone beacons are two other tactics cities use to increase student safety.
The stop-arm cameras are in line with cities' Vision Zero goals. A variety of authorities and stakeholders are trying to step up efforts to protect students, a vulnerable population, in light of the currently high number of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, pedestrian traffic fatalities dipped slightly in 2017, 1.7%, down from the 25 year peak of 6,080 in 2016.
While the stop-arm cameras carry the good intention of reducing harm to children, any public photo or video monitoring system can face scrutiny about privacy and the unintended consequences that could occur. That's evident in the current battle over facial recognition technologies. Cities including Oakland, CA and Somerville, MA have banned local governmental use of facial recognition technology.
New York's school bus camera legislation could assuage many of those concerns with its extensive language covering proper use and handling of the images collected. The cameras must be directed outwardly to capture other drivers' violations and they shall not identify the bus driver or passengers, cyclists or pedestrians. The images captured cannot be used for any other purpose than illegal bus passing enforcement. The photos, license plate information and other information about the vehicle cannot be used or distributed for any purpose other than establishing driver liability and collecting fine payment.
New York school districts will be able to use these cameras in about a month, just in time for the start of the new school year.