As Washington County considers whether to use cameras to catch motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses, some tricky questions still remain.
Such as, if a camera documents a criminal act unrelated to the driving infraction, could law-enforcement officials use that footage as part of an investigation?
Washington County Sheriff Douglas W. Mullendore said he thinks they could. He envisions a local law allowing video footage to be used for criminal cases, but not civil cases.
He noted, however, that it's unlikely that a camera trained on a limited area near a school bus would catch anything beyond a traffic violation.
These and other details still need to be worked out in the coming months if local officials proceed with plans to install cameras on buses, aimed at passing traffic.
Under state law, vehicles must stop for flashing red lights on a school bus flash, giving passengers room and time to get on or off the bus.
In Maryland, cameras are now allowed in counties that want them, because of enabling legislation passed in Annapolis earlier this year.
Mullendore said Thursday that he would start the program in the county on a trial basis, probably using about 20 buses on routes where bus drivers have seen the most violations.
He has suggested that for the first 60 days violators get a warning instead of a citation.
The pilot program would allow equipment from different vendors to be tested before the county chooses one, he said.
Mullendore and the school board also are hesitant to place too many cameras on buses to start because of how the new law is worded.
Board member Donna Brightman said the law seems to apply only to buses that the county owns and not the buses it uses through contracts.
Mullendore said he hopes to have the law amended in the next state legislative session to make it clear that contractors' buses are included.
Washington County Public Schools has 160 buses and contracts 70 more, according to Washington County Public Schools spokesman Richard Wright.
State Sen. David R. Brinkley, R-Carroll/Frederick, sponsored the bill allowing cameras on school buses.
Among the lawmakers who represent Washington County, Del. Neil C. Parrott, R-Washington, and Sen. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, voted no. The other six delegates and senators in the delegation voted yes.