School bus cameras require more consideration

Published 6:15 pm Friday, March 24, 2017


On Tuesday, the North Carolina Senate voted in favor of a bill that would allow school bus cameras for the purpose of catching drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped bus.

The camera would be attached to the bus’ stop-arm and capture photos of any vehicle that does not stop, even though the stop-arm is out. Penalties could range from $400 to $1,000, or in some cases, criminal charges.

School bus cameras seem like a good idea on the surface level. There is nothing more important than protecting children, and that includes making safety a priority when children are coming to or from school.

However, this type of technology calls to mind a similar idea of years past: red light cameras. Today’s teenage drivers have likely never had to encounter these, but somewhat older drivers remember them. Run a red light, and an installed camera would snap a photo of one’s vehicle, leading to a traffic ticket within the near future once law enforcement received the footage.

In recent years, though, cities have removed these red light cameras because of rampant malfunctions — whether they didn’t work at all or snapped photos of vehicles even when the light was green. The cameras became more trouble than they were worth.

The same could easily happen with school bus cameras. If those cameras malfunctioned, who would shoulder the responsibility? Who would provide the funds for the cameras in the first place? Would funds allow for all buses to have them installed?

Bus drivers still regularly report seeing drivers pass their buses when stopped to pick up or drop off children. It happens more often than it should.

Anything to further help protect children is inherently a good thing, but school districts have a lot of questions left to answer if this legislation passes.

If those questions are not given some thought, the cameras could end up being more trouble than they’re worth.