Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Maryland Debates Use of School Bus Stop Arm Cameras

ANNAPOLIS -- Six of Frederick County's eight state lawmakers are signing on to a proposal allowing school systems statewide to use school bus cameras.
The cameras are intended to catch drivers who pass stopped school buses loading and unloading students.
The delegation decided this month not to seek the cameras just in Frederick County, as had been requested by the county's public schools.
Delegate Paul Stull and Sen. David Brinkley, both Frederick County Republicans, decided to introduce the bill statewide instead.
"I don't have any forgiveness for anybody that runs past a school bus with lights flashing," Brinkley said.
The only two state lawmakers from Frederick who are not sponsors on the bills are Delegate Joseph Bartlett and Sen. Alex Mooney, both Republicans.
Bartlett said he does not see a distinction between the bus cameras and cameras that catch drivers running red lights or speeding. He opposed both those camera programs when the state was considering them.
"I've been railing against speed cameras and red-light cameras, and then I'm going to cosponsor another type of camera?" Bartlett said. "That doesn't make a lot of sense."
Brinkley also opposed those cameras, but said he thinks school bus cameras are different. With red-light cameras, he thought their primary purpose was revenue generation and not public safety.
In this case, school officials said they do not want any of the proceeds of the fines. They are concerned about a rising number of vehicles passing buses and the danger that poses to schoolchildren.
Brinkley said passing a school bus is a serious transgression, and he would like even more serious penalties than those in his bill.
The bill calls for a fine of $100; he said he'd like that raised to $500. He also thinks the law should compel the operator, or the owner, of the vehicle to appear in court.
Stull said he does not think red light cameras and school bus cameras are the same thing. There is a demonstrated need in Frederick County for school bus cameras, he said.
"Too many people are passing buses with the red lights on," Stull said. "We ought to really be looking to slow them down or change their habits."
The Maryland House of Delegates Environmental Matters Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the school bus camera bill at 2 p.m. March 9 in the House Office Building, 6 Bladen St.
To contact the committee staff, call 410-841-3990.