The Red Clay Consolidated School District is taking steps to improve the safety of children as they ride the bus to and from school, according to a districtwide press release.
Red Clay will be piloting a program with cameras on school buses to catch safety arm violators that attempt to pass stopped buses, the release states.
The district has also released a Public Service Announcement (PSA) to remind drivers of the dangers of passing a stopped school bus with its lights flashing and safety arm extended.
Red Clay Superintendent Dorrell Green said the safety of Red Clay students is always the district’s top priority, and that the community should do whatever it can to minimize risks.
“Increasing the safety of children riding the buses is an excellent place to make strides for the better,” Green said.
Red Clay Assistant Superintendent Ted Ammann, who oversees transportation for the district, said that the most dangerous point of a child’s commute to school is when they are entering or exiting the bus.
“That’s when a kid can get hurt,” he said. “We often talk with our drivers and ask them how we can make the trip to school safer. Our drivers have reported that motorists frequently pass stopped school buses with their stop arms out and red lights flashing.”
In a statewide survey of bus drivers conducted on May 4, 2018, 1,108 bus drivers reported 572 illegal passes, eight of which were by the right side of the bus where the door is located.
Almost 300 of the illegal passes (296) were drivers approaching from the rear of the buss, and more than half of the illegal passes (294) occurred on the morning bus run, the release states.
On March 26, State Rep. Kim Williams, D-Newport, introduced House Bill 111 – otherwise known as “Laura’s Law.”
The law is named after a Red Clay student who was nearly struck as she entered a bus one morning.
If passed, “Laura’s Law” would allow violators to be issued summons for running the school bus using footage collected from school bus cameras.
The bill calls for motorists to be fined $250 for the first violation, to increase by an additional $250 per offense, not to exceed $750 within a 10-year period.
The law would require districts to display a sign on buses with cameras that a fine will be issued for passing while red lights are flashing, and to release a PSA each year warning motorists that school buses in their home districts are using the cameras.
The bill would not make external cameras mandatory but encourages other districts to follow Red Clay’s lead. Fines collected from violators would be used to reimburse school districts for the cost of installing, operating and maintaining the cameras.
Under the current law, a police officer has to witness the violation, or a bus driver has to write down the license plate, and report the incident to police before civil penalties can be issued.
The district currently has 18 buses equipped with stop arm cameras, following the pilot program last year.
Red Clay Transportation Manager Kelly Shahan said that during the pilot program, at least two drivers were identified as illegally passing a stopped bus on each run.
“This legislation looks to hold motorists accountable, and encourages Delaware schools to utilize external camera systems to catch vehicles that illegally pass school buses,” Williams said. “It’s a step in the right direction that moves the conversation forward to ensure the safety of our students and motorists on the roads.”
At least 16 states have implemented similar legislation, including Pennsylvania in 2018, according to the release.
Red Clay has produced a one-minute PSA showing the incident when Laura was nearly struck by a bus and explaining Laura’s Law.
View the video at youtu.be/77QIjKvO2o8.