With the addition of stop arm cameras on 29 of its buses this year, Fort Wayne Community Schools hopes to see an increase in prosecutions for some of the more than 200 daily school bus stop arm violators in Allen County.
Last year, FWCS joined Northwest Allen County Schools, Southwest Allen County Schools, East Allen County Schools and Parkview Health Trauma Services to launch “Slow. Stop. Stay.,” a public service campaign designed to educate drivers on the law regarding stop arm violations as well as the danger to students posed by drivers that ignore stop arms. As part of that effort, FWCS recently purchased 29 new buses equipped with cameras that will automatically record the driver and license plate number of any offending vehicle. That information can then be sent to local law enforcement to begin the process of prosecuting violators.
“We think that this is going to be a very beneficial tool for us,” FWCS Transportation Director Frank Jackson said. “First of all, it will send a message to the community that we are serious about the safety of our kids, and that stop arm violations can be a traumatic incident. We want to prevent that sort of thing from happening. We think this is going to have a tremendous impact on violators out there.”
Jackson said the district has received lots of input from the community following a 2018 accident in Rochester, Indiana, in which a driver killed three children after passing a stopped school bus. Part of the process of bolstering school bus safety has included ongoing conversations with FWPD and the Allen County Prosecutor’s Office.
FWCS currently has 254 total school buses in its fleet. Jackson said the district will continue to replace old buses with the camera-equipped buses. The district replaces at least 29 buses each year.
The new buses will be placed in “problem areas” where the district has seen frequent violations, Jackson said, adding they will be moved around as needed.
“This is a serious issue,” he said. “We’re talking about the lives of kids that are at stake here, so I would encourage the community to not concern themselves just with the fact that there is a stop arm camera on the bus — but do the right thing. … Be mindful when kids are loading on the school bus, take your time, be observant, think about if this was your kid boarding the school bus.”
During the first week of school in districts throughout Allen County, local law enforcement agencies began a special enforcement campaign focusing on stop arm violations, speed violations in school zones and drivers disregarding school crossing guards.
“The Fort Wayne Police Department would like to remind all drivers that with schools starting back this week we would like you to please look out for all our kids. Be mindful of school buses on the roadways, as well as children walking to and from school,” FWPD Public Information Officer Sgt. Sofia Rosales-Scatena said in an Aug. 10 news release. “Remember, you must stop for school buses with flashing arms extended. Know the rules on when to stop for a school bus on a roadway. We will be out there enforcing stop arm violations, and there will be no warnings. It’s important for the safety of our children, and it’s the law.”
The “Slow. Stop. Stay.” campaign will continue through the 2020-21 school year, with frequent reminders to motorists to pay attention to school buses transporting students to and from school.