CORYDON, Ind. (WAVE) - With students around the region headed back to school, buses are starting to fill the roads.
In Indiana, lawmakers this year made penalties tougher for drivers who pass stopped school buses, especially if they hit someone trying to cross.
Now, there is a new way to find out which drivers are putting students at risk, by using cameras.
On the first day back to school in South Harrison Schools, there’s something new on their schools buses. Cameras sit on the buses, designed to catch drivers passing buses when their arms are out. It is a danger the district sees every day.
“It’s almost a daily occurrence, sometimes more than one a day,” Mark Eastridge, Superintendent of South Harrison School Corporation, said. Eastridge said he doesn’t think drivers mean to do it, but with 60 buses shuttling 2,000 students daily, it is a serious problem.
“I don’t think that we have a lot of individuals that intentionally run arms," Eastridge said. “We’ve got distracted drivers, we’ve got some that think, ‘Oh, I can beat it before that stop arm comes out,' and we just have to be mindful of those things.”
As soon as the driver hits the warning light sign, the camera starts rolling. That way, when they hit the stop arm button on the bus, the doors come out and the cameras are already there catching drivers trying to go around.
WAVE 3 News tested out the cameras with our news car passing the bus, a maneuver we attempted with the school district in a quiet parking lot. In a quick drive-by, the bus cams clearly pick out our car and plate.
These new cameras are possible through a partnership between the school district and Harrison County Prosecutor Otto Schalk.
Schalk sent a statement to WAVE 3 News about the cameras:
“Protecting our children should always be the utmost priority for law enforcement. Utilizing high definition cameras to assist us in prosecuting stop-arm violations is beyond valuable. Stop arm violations present a serious danger to our community, and I hope that this partnership between South Harrison School Corporation and my office serves to reduce this unnecessary danger."
The cameras are all paid for through drug money seized by the prosecutor’s office.
"So that’s taking money that was a bad, ill-gotten gain and using it for something good,” Eastridge said.
With student safety on parents’ minds as their kids head back to class, Eastridge said he hopes the cameras keep drivers here, and around the region, accountable by waiting safely behind buses instead of going around.
Across the river in Kentucky, Representative Robert Goforth filed legislation Thursday that would require those cameras on school buses by 2023, to improve safety and better hold drivers accountable. The bill also would impose fines for drivers who violate the bus stop-arms and drive around.