Toward the end of the 2018-19 school year, as state legislators debated whether to allow school districts to install cameras to ticket motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses, East Meadow tested them. In the first week of the pilot program, cameras installed on the stop-sign arms of just nine buses recorded 70 violations. That's in line with what the Bay Shore district found the year before, when cameras on two buses recorded 389 drivers passing illegally in three months. And it's similar to what has been seen nationally in communities that use the cameras to both discourage such reckless behavior and punish it.
The point was clear. Passing stopped school buses is a significant and dangerous problem, and exterior cameras that catch violators are needed to address it.
These cameras could face opposition if they are perceived as being related to controversial red-light cameras, but that would be unjustified. Red-light cameras do seem to save lives by cutting down on serious collisions, but can increase the number of rear-end collisions by causing drivers to slam on their brakes. School bus cameras cut down on infractions without increasing dangers.
Where these cameras have been used — for example, in Cobb County, Georgia, and Laurel, Mississippi, among other communities — they've helped, particularly when operated in combination with education programs. And drivers learn. In Cobb County, which operates about 1,000 buses, less than 2 percent of those ticketed are caught repeating the offense, according to officials, and violations have dropped by half.