Thursday, February 24, 2011

Video Pulled as Part of Texting Bus Driver Investigation

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

MD Bill Would Catch Drivers Who Illegally Pass School Buses

ANNAPOLIS — Delegates in the House Environmental Matters Committee expressed shock Tuesday afternoon about the number of drivers who are passing stopped school buses.
Delegate Patrick Hogan, a Frederick County Republican, said he hoped he could translate their concern into support for his bill, which would allow school districts to use cameras on the outside of school buses to catch those violating the law.

The cameras would be among the tools used to issue citations to owners of vehicles driven past a bus.

"I think the hearing went very well, and there seems to be consensus among committee members that we need to take action on the issue," said Hogan, who said he expected the committee would continue to discuss the details of the bill.

Hogan believes points should be placed on a person's driver's license for a violation, and the fine should be higher than the $100 being proposed.

Leon Langley, Maryland State Department of Education director of pupil transportation, testified that he had organized an effort this month for school bus drivers to record the number of violations they witnessed in one day. Drivers from 19 of 24 jurisdictions have sent him their results, based on a survey performed on Feb. 9 or 10, depending on the weather in their areas.

So far, 3,491 of 4,656 bus drivers have responded to the survey. In a single day, those bus drivers reported 5,465 instances of cars going past a school bus that was stopped with its stop sign and flashing lights extended.

"Those are just astounding statistics," said Delegate Tony O'Donnell, a Republican. "Thousands of violations in one day."

Frederick County Public Schools has already been using cameras to track violators, but as the law currently stands it can't issue citations. Last year, school system officials recorded more than 400 violations. So far this school year, they have recorded 198, said Veronica Lowe, FCPS director of transportation.

"The numbers are staggering," said Walter Brilhart, a retired associate superintendent who is now a consultant for the school system.

School officials said students are safe on school buses, but getting on and off them is a "danger zone" where students could be hit by cars.

"Why would someone pass a stopped school bus with red lights flashing and stop arm deployed?" Lowe said. "We don't know that reason, we just know it's not legal and puts our children in extreme danger."

In at least the past two years, no student has been hurt or killed by a car passing a school bus, Langley said, but school officials said they did not want to wait for someone to be killed or hurt to pass a law.

They envision the cameras as part of a public awareness campaign already implemented, Brilhart said.

For instance, the school system prepared and distributed pamphlets in both English and Spanish to educate drivers about the dangers of passing stopped school buses.

"The cameras won't protect the child from being struck, but what the camera will do is increase driver awareness, and that's what we're after," Brilhart said.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Woman Slaps Bus Driver

It used to be that riding the bus was a dangerous proposition, but now driving it can be hazardous to your health.

An elderly Broward County bus driver was slapped silly by an irate bus rider, who accused him of hitting her with the bus doors after she said she didn't have any money.

The unidentified woman had just got on the county bus as it approached a stop at Andrews Avenue and Oakland Park Boulevard when she decided to unleash her fury on the unsuspecting bus operator.

The woman had just told Tassos Kostopoulos, 72, that she didn't have enough money for the bus fare. he said she would have to get off. It costs $1.75 for a one-way trip.

Suspect in bus driver slapping. As Kostopoulos opened the bus doors to let riders on and off, one of the doors accidentally hit the broke bus rider, who then went berserk.

After accusing the driver of purposely hitting her, she went on a profanity-laced assault as the packed bus watched in shock.

Then the woman utters the words no bus driver wants to hear.

"You are lucky that I am not being violent right now. You are so lucky," the woman screamed.

That usually means that violence is imminent. Kostopoulos tried to warn the woman that her actions were being recorded on camera, but that didn't seem to help. The woman looked directly into the camera and pointed at it several times.

And moments later, the woman slapped Kostopoulos across the face, knocking the stunned driver's sunglasses to the floor.

The woman is described as black and in her early 20s, about 5’9” tall, thin, has long, wavy, black hair and was wearing a white shirt and jeans.

Police said she faces aggravated assault charges for being so slap happy.

UPDATE: Women Arrested

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Massachusetts Pending Legislation for School Bus Stop Arm Ticketing Cameras

SEEKONK - If pending legislation is approved during this session Massachusetts will allow cameras to be installed on school buses. The Seekonk School Committee is now considering being one of the first districts to get involved in a pilot program.

At their meeting last Monday night, the committee heard from Daniel Angeli of SmartBus Live. The company installs cameras on buses to take photographs of drivers who pass buses illegally. When a school bus comes to a stop to pick up or drop off children it is illegal to pass it.

“We’ve been in Rhode Island for just over two years since the law was enacted in July of 2008 allowing for live digital video to be used on school buses for the purpose of traffic management. In Massachusetts we have similar legislation pending. Senator [James E.] Timilty is one of the co-sponsors of the bill,” he said. (Sen. Timilty did not return a call for comment.)

To support passage of that legislation, SmartBus Live is trying to gather data locally. Their desire is to place an external camera system on a Seekonk school bus at no charge to the district to monitor the amount of drivers who pass the bus illegally while children are getting on or off the school bus.

“Some of the primary challenges, not only here in Massachusetts but nationwide, is the fact that motorists are illegally passing school buses. This creates a severe traffic safety issue for children getting on and off the bus,” Mr. Angeli said.

He cited a Florida study that said found, on average, “every school bus is illegally passed once a day. In Massachusetts that would be over 9,000 times a day that somebody illegally passes a school bus.”

How it works, what it costs

Mr. Angeli said the external camera system offers a 180 degree panoramic view of up to four lanes of traffic. At the SmartBus Live command center, employees monitor the video feed every time a school bus stops. If they see someone illegally passing the bus, that bus is flagged and the information is processed to ticket the individual.

SmartBus Live does not charge the district for any aspect of the service. They make their money through the issuing of tickets.

They also offer a service to monitor the interior of school buses, “for the purposes of bullying and vandalism issues that occur on a school bus on a daily basis,” Mr. Angeli said.

Thinking about it

The committee was down two members during last Monday night’s presentation. With Fran Creamer and Mitchell Vieira absent, the remaining three committee members agreed that the proposal was too important to decide without the full board. After a few questions about cost and process, the three members agreed to table the conversation until a March 7 work session that will be held immediately before their regular meeting. If they agree to be part of the pilot program, the camera system could be installed on a bus with enough time to gather data to support the proposed legislation.

“It’s a good program in my view,” said school committee member Bill Barker.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Legislation Under Consideration for School Bus Stop Arm Cameras

Monday, February 14, 2011

Police Use Bus Camera Video to Catch Dog Napper

It wasn’t quite a dog day afternoon, but one Toronto senior is glad his canine hostage crisis has come to an end.

Retired engineer John Hildon, 84, curled up in his favourite recliner Sunday with Goldie laying across his lap as the pair spent the day together following a bizarre dognapping on Friday night.

“I was taking Goldie for a walk...on Ellesmere (Rd.) going towards Victoria Park (Ave.),” said Hildon. “This guy ... looked down (at the dog) and said, ‘Who’s dog is this?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know,’ jokingly. So, this guy grabs the dog.”

Hildon, who lives near Ellesmere and Victoria Park, said the man ran across the street against a red light with his eight-year old Bichon Frise in his arms and jumped on a bus.

Hildon said he called Toronto police when he got home but thought the dog was gone forever.

Detectives were assigned to the case and used the cameras on the bus the alleged suspect boarded to track down the missing mutt, according to Hildon.

Hildon said he endured a gruelling 24-hours as the fate his cuddly companion remained uncertain.

It wasn’t until officers brought Goldie home Saturday night that he could relax.

“It was one of the happiest moments of my life,” Hildon said with tears in his eyes. “When I saw the (police) coming to the door with him I couldn’t believe it.”

Goldie was rewarded with a pork chop dinner and plenty of affection from Hildon.

Hildon said that while he will continue to walk his dog along the same route, he did learn a valuable lesson.

“I’m gonna keep him on a six-foot leash now,” he said with a laugh.

A 36-year old Toronto man has been charged with theft and possession of stolen property, according to police.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Transit Camera Catches Elderly Man Hit by SUV

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Flasher Caught By Bus CCTV

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Bus Camera Shows Moment of Impact

CCTV has been released from on board a bus which was involved in a head-on crash in Turkey showing the shocking moment of impact.
The images show passengers reacting in horror as a truck speeds towards them.

The on-board camera also shows the driver escaping from the vehicle following the collision, which sprayed shattered glass across the bus.

The crash left 18 people injured but amazingly nobody was killed.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Bus Cameras Become Focus at Marshall County TN

School bus cameras and a demonstration of how they work were shown to members of the school board's transportation committee Tuesday.
"That's what you spent your money on," said transportation supervisor Michael Frey, showing committee members a camera about the size of a paperback book, and inviting them to gather around his laptop to view images from a bus camera.

Frey explained employees at the bus garage installed front and rear cameras on four buses so far. Installation takes three or four hours, and by doing it in-house, they are saving a $500 per bus installation charge.

Frey said these are state-of-the-art cameras that record to a card, which holds about 40 hours of pictures. The camera turns on when the bus starts, and stays on for five minutes after the ignition is switched off. The cameras are also infrared, so even when the interior of the bus is dark, pictures of bus-riders are still being taken.

Still pictures from bus video can be e-mailed to principals' computers or to director Roy Dukes, and Frey said technology supervisor Susanne Ingram was working on a way to e-mail moving pictures as well.

Thirty-four buses are still waiting for camera installation, and "hopefully we will be done by summer," Frey said.

Stickers stating "You May Be Recorded" are being placed on the buses, and, at Barbara Kennedy's urging, a disclaimer about being photographed on school buses will be included for signature in next year's student packet.

Transportation committee discussion moved on to "snow routes" for school buses.

"We worked on them eight years ago," Dukes explained. "We only used them once or twice."

He proposed to have bus drivers look at conditions on their routes, and then a list of snow routes could be brought to the Board.

Dukes noted that sometimes all the main roads are clear, while some of the back roads are still unsafe.

"We ought to give kids the opportunity to get to school if at all possible," Kennedy said, reminding committee members of the number students who are getting free and reduced meals, and miss this chance of hot, nourishing food when there's no school.

"I think you should specify roads that are excused, whether they are bus riders or not," was Frey's opinion. "It's been 1993 since we missed a whole week of school," he added.

On the question of whether it made sense to hold classes with many students absent, Kennedy said, "It's better to remediate 500 than 5,000."

"We've got to get the kids in school," she continued. "We've got to change the way we do things -- we can't allow them to make excuses. If we can get 70 percent in school, we should do it."

"We ran every route on the day school started at 10 a.m.," Frey reported, adding that 693 students had been absent that day.

"If we don't compel them, they're not coming," Kennedy said, digressing into the problem of short days at the beginning and end of semesters when the buses don't run at all.

"We need to give them a reason to go to school," she concluded.

"The main thing is the safety of the children," said committee member Randy Perryman, and there was general agreement with the statement.