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Cameras on school buses a good move for kids' sake

July 15, 2013

Motorists who skirt traffic laws will probably be the first to complain about the Washington County Board of Commissioners’ plan to install cameras on school buses. They might reflect that it is because of their own behavior that there is a need.

The cameras fit on the bus and are enabled to collect photos and video once the stop arm is extended and the red lights are flashing. Drivers who run through the red lights can expect a $125 fine. Cameras will be installed on 20 buses to begin with, after a pilot project snagged numerous violators.

We support the board’s unanimous decision. We wish it were otherwise, but bad driving habits have apparently left the board little choice.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said the pilot project was “an eye-opening experience. … There were quite a few violations.”

In a one-day survey in February 2011, 126 bus drivers reported a total of 88 violations. That’s an unacceptable amount of dangerous behavior where the safety of our children is concerned.

No one who has passed a written driver’s test should need the lesson on how to operate a vehicle near a school bus, but the truth is that we all get in a hurry to get to work and to get home. So the program can serve to remind motorists that an extra minute one way or another is not worth risking an unspeakable tragedy.

The comedian Gallagher once said that “a yellow traffic light does not mean ‘put it to the floor.’” Same goes for yellow warning lights on a bus. Because the potential outcome is no laughing matter.

An aside considering the proliferation of traffic cameras in our communities: The county properly advertised a request for proposals and whittled options to American Traffic Solutions Inc. to run the enforcement program. As is customary in the lucrative traffic camera business, this firm is receiving a percentage of money paid for each ticket and the county receives the rest. As we consider these camera installation firms, we urge our public officials to consider which contractor offers the best financial return to our local jurisdictions.

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