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John Townsend
Public Relations Manager, DC
O: (202) 481-6820 (ext. 4462108)
C: (202) 253-2171
jtownsend@aaamidatlantic.com

WASHINGTON, D. C. (Tuesday, September 4, 2018)––Nearly 51 thousand drivers were ticketed and summarily fined, some habitually, for illegally passing yellow school buses with extended stop signal arms, and flashing amber and red lights on the front and rear, in Montgomery County during the past two school years. Compounding matters, nearly 2,000 motorists were ticketed time and again for this behavior. These violations occurred as school buses were loading and off-loading students. The evidence against these drivers is incontrovertible and damning. High-resolution photographs, images and video clips of these school bus passing violations were recorded by stop-arm cameras mounted on a growing number of school buses in Montgomery County. In neighboring Prince George’s County, hundreds of motorists were also caught on school bus stop arm cameras while breaking the law and endangering the lives and limbs of children.

 

From the 2016-2017 academic year through the 2017-2018 school year, Montgomery County issued 50,993 school bus stop-arm camera tickets to errant motorists who potentially put thousands of school bus-riding children in harm’s way day-in and day-out. Cumulatively, these tickets carried a face value of $10,721,375 in fine revenue, estimates AAA Mid-Atlantic. Current fines in Maryland are $250 per infraction, up from $125, as of July 1, 2017.  Similarly, in Virginia, “a stop-arm violation results in a $250 civil penalty.”

 

 

  School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Enforcement Tickets Montgomery County

School Year

2016-2017

2017-2018

Ticket Total

Revenue

Citations

16,215

34,778

50,993

$10,721,375

 

When schools in Montgomery County opened a year ago, 500 public school buses in the County’s vehicle fleet were equipped with school bus stop-arm cameras. The Montgomery County Police Department hopes to install the cameras on 1,200 county school buses by January 2019.  School bus stop arm cameras are also deployed on school buses in Arlington Public Schools, Falls Church City, Manassas Park City Schools, and by school districts and law enforcement agencies on the Maryland side of the Potomac River in Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Washington County, and Frederick County. “While state laws differ slightly, passing a stopped school bus almost always is a violation of traffic law.” Even veteran police officers are shocked by the magnitude of drivers failing to stop and wait for stopped school buses.

 

“Montgomery County mandates 182 days of student instruction. Each school day in Montgomery County last year around 190 motorists, on average, were detected red-handed by school bus stop arm cameras in the very act of illegally passing school buses when the stop arm was deployed and red lights were flashing,” said Captain Thomas Didone, Montgomery County Police Department. “We continue to capture scofflaws, including 1,991 repeat violators, in enforcement photos either stopping for a moment, and then proceeding, or totally ignoring the red lights and stop arm, and driving right by the signalized stopped school bus.”

“Despite repeated warnings and hefty $250 fines, on average, 950 motorists were nabbed on camera each school week for approaching a stopped school bus on county roads and at bus stops,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “These drivers are brazenly endangering the lives of school children as they are exiting or entering their buses. It involves an inexcusable violation of state laws requiring drivers to stop at least 20 feet from the front or rear of a stopped school bus.”

 

Stop-arm camera systems have been installed on 20 school buses in Prince George’s County, where 132,000 students are returning to school. “During the past three school years nearly 800 motorists were ticketed in the County after being caught on camera for violating school bus stop laws,” said Jennifer Donelan, Director, Media Relations Division, Prince George’s County Police Department. “That includes 92 motorists during the 2015-2016 school year, 232 drivers in the 2016-2017 school session, and 475 drivers in the 2017-2018 academic year. In Prince George’s County, stop- arm cameras are rotated in various bus routes. For thousands of students, the greatest risk they face is not riding the bus, but approaching and leaving it.”

 

Even so, during the 2016-2017 academic year, around 16, 215 motorists were ticketed for school bus stop-arm violations incurred while passing a school bus in both directions. In dollars and cents, these tickets had a face value of $2,026,875. During the academic year, just 210 school buses Montgomery County were equipped with automatic stop-arm violation detection systems. The stop-arm cameras capture every vehicle passing a stopped school bus when the stop arm is deployed and the red lights are flashing.

 

The number of violations stemming from the failure to stop until the stop arm is retracted increased exponentially, a staggering 114.4 percent escalation, in the following school year, as more stop-arm cameras were installed on additional school buses in Montgomery County, totaling 500 school buses in all, reports the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD).  As proof, 34,778 drivers were on the receiving end of school bus stop arm camera tickets detected by an armada of school buses armed with stop-arm cameras during the 2017-2018 school year in Montgomery County. These tickets carried a face value of $8,694,500.

 

“As the 2018-2019 school year dawns, 400 additional buses in the Montgomery County school bus fleet will be equipped with the stop-arm camera enforcement technology,” explains Captain Didone. “This will bring the total number of school buses with stop arm cameras to 900 by October, a threefold increase in the deployment of the technology since the 2016-2017 academic year. The system has a fleet of 1,307 buses.”

 

The 2018-2019 school year begins today, Tuesday, September 4, for approximately 900,000 students statewide in Maryland. Maryland, Virginia, and at least 13 other states have enacted school bus stop-arm camera laws, reports the National Conference of States Legislatures (NCSL). “More than 400 children nationwide have been killed by drivers passing a stopped school bus over the past four decades.”

 

During its 2017 Legislative Session, the Maryland General Assembly upped the cost of school bus stop arm camera tickets from $125 to $250. With Governor Lawrence Hogan’s signature, the tougher penalty and fine went into effect July 1, 2017. Too many drivers are ignoring the law (Maryland Transportation Code Ann. §21-706.1) that plainly states you must stop before approaching or overtaking a stopped school bus on a two-lane roadway. If a police officer catches you in the act, you are slapped with a “$570 three point citation.”

 

Montgomery County’s enrollment boasts 161,546 students attending 206 schools. Yet, 56.8 percent of the student body, 103,000 pupils, hail school buses that annually travel a distance equaling trips four and a half times around the equator. The MCPD warns: “Drivers must stop, and remain stopped, for a school bus that is stopped with red lights flashing and stop arm activated. A driver may not proceed until the flashing red lights go off and the bus begins to move. The only time a driver doesn’t have to stop is if the vehicle is traveling in the opposite direction of the bus and there is a physical median/barrier separating the lanes of traffic.”

 

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