Flanked by state education officials and bus drivers, Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, on Thursday urged fellow lawmakers to consider a proposal that would authorize school districts to install external cameras on school buses in order to catch drivers who illegally pass the buses.
The measure, first introduced in May, stipulates a fine of $300 to $500 for any motorist seen on surveillance passing a bus, provided certain information is visible in the video: the school bus exhibiting its flashing light, the motor vehicle passing the bus, the make, model and license plate of the offending vehicle, and the date, time and location of the incident.
Fines would be forwarded back to the municipality in which the violation occurred. Revenues would be used in part for public safety programs.
Singleton admitted that the fines generated by the cameras would not be enough to pay for the equipment.
“There is going to have to be an investment from our local education communities,” he said.
While saying Singleton and his colleagues’ hearts were in the right place, Assemblyman Declan O’Scanlon, R-Monmouth questioned the true motive of the measure and where, aside from the fines, funding would come from.
“The reason why nobody knows how much this equipment is going to cost is because it’s going to be paid for by the red light camera companies,” said O’Scanlon, one of the legislature’s foremost crusaders against red-light cameras. “The same people that brought us red light cameras are trying to get their camel’s nose back under the tent.”
However, Singleton said the primary goal remains ensuring that every child getting on or off a school bus is guaranteed to reach a place of safety.
“For us, whether it’s one life or 1,000, we need to be mindful of that and try and aggressively do that,” Singleton said, “and if we can find a mechanism that allows school districts to do that by having some other resources put in place, I think it’s something that we’re all committed to doing.”
Under Singleton’s bill, law enforcement would issue a summons to an alleged perpetrator within 90 days of the offense. Recorded images would be purged from digital storage space following the collection of a fine, or if a determination is made not to issue a summons.