Proposed bill would allow Tennessee school districts to install cameras on buses

Local News

Tennessee lawmakers might soon allow school districts to install something similar to a red light camera on school buses. The idea is to catch drivers who don’t stop for school buses as they pick up or drop off kids. The cameras would be placed around the bus to take a photo of cars illegally passing a stopped school bus, the driver would receive a fifty dollar citation in the mail.

Ellie Whitesell, a mother of two, said she is all for the idea, anything to help keep her family safe. She submitted video of cars passing her child’s school bus and said it happens every week.

“Some child is going to die. It’s not okay,” said Whitesell.

School leaders also expressed their concerns about other drivers on the road not paying attention. In fact, Knox County Schools says in the past month and a half there have been more than 90 situations reported. No one was injured, but leaders say it is only a matter of time.

“That’s by the grace of God at this point, and we really need people to understand what the rules are. If you see a bus stopped or the arm deployed, just know there are kids around that bus,” said Russ Oaks, Chief Operating Officer for Knox County Schools.

Knox County Schools recently released public service announcements alongside Tennessee Highway Patrol to try and spread the message to drivers about when they need to stop and why it’s so important.

Meanwhile, Knoxville police follow up on many complaints about drivers illegally passing buses. Lt. Brian Evans said it is a huge concern and police have set up stings in areas that continue to be a problem. Right now he said if an officer doesn’t witness it happening, there’s nothing they can do as far as writing a ticket. He said most drivers caught are usually distracted.

“To prevent a crash you have to predict what another person, driver, pedestrian is going to do, and with kids you can’t always do that,” Lt. Brian Evans.

While police and school leaders work together to do what they can, some state lawmakers are continuing to push a bill that would allow school districts to mount cameras on stop arms. Zen-tinel, a company that manufactures this technology, shared video of how it works.

It’s similar to a red light camera, snapping a photo of the vehicle and license plate as it passes the bus. A citation is then sent in the mail to the driver with no penalty to their driver’s license. The fine would be $50 with the overall goal to deter drivers from even taking the risk.

Lee Maines, transportation supervisor for Roane County Schools, says he’s all for it and thinks the cameras would help.

“Once the word got out there was a pretty steep fine, I think it would deter other people from doing it,” said Maines.

Other drivers said they had mixed feelings.

“It’s a problem and I see it all the time. I’m not so much a fan of invasion of privacy of cameras everywhere and things like that. That does concern,” said Chris Bloyd.

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