Do bus-mounted cameras keep students safe?
by Geoff Folsom
February 22, 2013 01:30 AM | 5546 views | 19 19 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A Cobb County school bus is equipped with cameras that detect a vehicle passing and records the vehicle in motion and its license plate when the stop arm is extended, shown in December 2012.<br>Staff/Laura Moon
A Cobb County school bus is equipped with cameras that detect a vehicle passing and records the vehicle in motion and its license plate when the stop arm is extended, shown in December 2012.
Staff/Laura Moon
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Police say the new hidden cameras on the sides of Cobb school buses are working to keep students safer. The citations written as a result of the cameras are also generating new revenue for the county.

In a one-day test in January, Cobb School District bus drivers reported 400 drivers illegally passing the buses, said Lt. Hawk Hagebak with the Cobb Police Department’s Traffic Services Unit. That is down from 1,600 violators in a 2011 test and 900 in a one-day test last year.

“I would say it’s brought into the bright light the concern for stopping for school buses,” Hagebak said of the cameras, as well as increased education on passing stopped school buses. “Driving down the road, you don’t know if the bus has a camera or not.”

The cameras are equipped on 102 of the Cobb district’s 1,202 buses. The school district began installing a single camera on the buses in 2010 at a cost of $200 each, while Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions paid to install six additional cameras on the 102 buses last year. Two cameras – one toward the front wheels of the bus and another near the back wheels – record possible violations on video. A large yellow box in the middle of the bus holds five individual cameras that read license plates.

So far, a total of $134,059 has been raised off the tickets. Hagebak said 1,092 citations have been issued, with 435 paid through ATS. The tickets, which are all handled as civil cases, cost $300 for a first offense, $750 for a second offense and $1,000 for each additional violation for five years.

Where’s the money go?

ATS keeps 75 percent of the ticket revenue during the first year of the program, and lesser percentages thereafter. The remainder is split between the county government and the school district.

County spokesman Robert Quigley said stop-arm revenue goes to the public safety department, with specific needs determined by the department and County Manager David Hankerson.

“The program is still very new, and no decision has been made on any specific expenditures,” Quigley said.

The school district will use its revenue from the tickets toward educating students about school bus safety, said Chris Ragsdale, the Cobb School District’s deputy superintendent of operations.

Ragsdale said ATS is testing different routes to determine if more cameras need to be added to buses and what routes need them the most. But they don’t yet know whether, or how many, new ones will be added.

“It is one of those times when everybody works together — the Cobb Police Department, the school district and the third party,” he said.

The district bought its first stop-arm cameras as a reaction to the 2009 death of student Karla Campos, who was hit as she exited a bus in east Cobb. Hagebak said students who cross now are safer due to the cameras.

“By having fewer violators, it is less of a threat to our citizens we need to look out for most,” he said.

 

Comments
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Just Wait
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February 23, 2013
The only way to determine if these cameras keep kids safe is over time, are any more struck by cars. If so, then yes. If not, then this is nothing more than a money making opportunity. Of course, they are considering installing more cameras to make more money until they discover they are doing no good.
Cobb Parent
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February 23, 2013
EVERY day, EVERY school bus in Cobb is tailgated. Yet there appears to be no enforcement and no signage on the buses to stay back X number of feet. Calls to Eagle-Crowder have yielded nothing. How much would it cost to slap some STAY BACK signs on the rear of the buses. Not much compared to those expensive cameras.
IF!
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February 22, 2013
...schools were truly interested in the "safe" transport of their student cargo, when may we expect that they install SEAT BELTS in their busses. Yeah, as if!
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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February 22, 2013
Over the last few years, a very silly trend has developed; that of expecting others, often complete strangers, to watch out for the welfare and safety of others...when they should be doing it for themselves. A Few Examples:

1. Just when have you witnessed anyone looking both ways before they cross the road...especially when it's easier to rely on others for their personal safety?

2. "Baby On Board" Signs: This has to be one of the most ridiculous! Does this mean to suggest that WE should be more concerned about the transport of someone else's children rather than their own parents?

3. Trucks with "If you can't see my mirror I can't see you" Signs. My advice to the truck driver is to buy a BIGGER mirror. It is not my responsibility to worry about what you can or cannot see!

This is but a small example (I'm sure others have countless one's as well) of the "Nanny State" of a nation we become.
Diamond Jim
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February 22, 2013
You obviously know nothing about trucks, or are just not using common sense. The size of the mirror has absolutely nothing to do with it. Trucks are wide; cars are not. If you are a safe distance behind a truck the driver can see you in one or both of his mirrors. If you are tailgating so closely that the width of the truck obscures you, he or she has no idea you are there. That's what the signs are for.
TrueTrucker
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February 22, 2013
You are correct "May-Retta Survivor!" Next time you see a truck with that sign, just move into the blind-spot and teach that driver a lesson.

Remember that it is not your responsibility to worry about what the trucker can or cannot see.
A Waste of SPLOST $
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February 22, 2013
Please consider a different perspective on these cameras.

Logically one needs to ask: "Why would there be such a decrease in the number of citations or drivers breaking the law?" Research of human behavior and a simple knowledge of statistics does not bear lend much creditability to the comments made by Hagebak, Ragsdale and others. Simply, drivers would not radically dramatically change their driving habits due to a item on an obscure school website or a couple articles in the local newspaper - that rapidly.

Instead, it seems Mr. Ragsdale and the school board bought into the hyperbole that Cobb school bus drivers' claima that thousands of drivers do not follow the law and thus put our children at danger. Granted, some cars have gone around the stop arm of a bus, but the statistical probability that there would be that much of a change is fatally flawed, at best.

Instead, most likely some school bus drivers have gripped about a some cars who have broken the law (and rightly so). This complaint was discussed throughout the system and questioned by their supervisors. In the end; perception became the flawed reality of the Cobb School system transportation department.

Fairly soon many of the bus supervisors and bus drivers consciously (or subliminally) sought to be part of this victim's group. Thus, our school system was led to believe that there were thousands of citizens who broke the law on a weekly basis.

These is a name for this phenomenon known as the Hawthorn Effect. (Basically: Participants in a study will deliver the expected results research).

To their business credit, a private (out of state) company easily recognized a endless stream of income for a small investment and agreed to install even more cameras.

In the end, the school system has been doped by Ragsdale, the gossip of bus drivers, and a private for profit company. Thus, we are now closer to Big Brother 1984.

A question which was never asked of Ragsdale and other proponents of this program: Do other school systems in the metro area also live in a community where thousands of citizen/drivers break the law on a regular basis. a quick check will reveal the answer as no - confirming the Hawthorne Effect.

The school's use of taxpayers' money to spy on voters might make it a little more difficult to convince those same people to vote to waste even more money on the upcoming SPLOST.
anonymous
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February 22, 2013
You just gave me another reason to vote against SPLOST
Be Careful
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February 22, 2013
The question posed was, do the cameras keep kids safe?

I would have to say the answer is no. Because, nobody knows the cameras are there. I had no idea this was going on until seeing this article.

If the general public does not know, they won't do anything differently, thus, safety is not improved.

If the buses had big signs on them..."Camera equipped, don't pass or you'll get a ticket!", then there may be some safety gain.

And why should anyone except the school district get the money?? The department of public safety doesn't deserve it. It should be revenue for the schools only.

And I have another question. The school district says they will use the money to teach kids about school bus safety. Really? The teachers and students are already in class, just give them a lesson on bus safety. Or have an assembly one day. Why does it cost extra to teach bus safety?

MDJ...PLEASE....teach your reporters to be JOURNALISTS. They're great at writing stories that say, he said that, they said this...but they never ask any follow up questions and probe to get to the bottom of things.
TrueTrucker
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February 22, 2013
Please stay informed...do a little research on your own. It was made known to the public that these cameras were being installed on some of these buses since 2010. Quit taking cheap shots at the writer because of your ignorance.

Also, how about having a stop sign on the left side of the bus to inform motorist when to stop for the stopped school bus?

If we obey the stop sign then it is a moot point because the stop sign camera would not be triggered.

How about this sign? "Do Not Pass or You Might Kill Someone!"
for the children
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February 22, 2013
We must protect the anchor babies as they cross the streets to get to America's schools. They will be bilingual & be assured to be hired for the jobs Americans don't want, (or aren't willing to fight for).
Nabbed
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February 22, 2013
My son got a ticket on Roswell Rd. east of Marietta. Guilty as charged...

But it made me wonder, why are there bus stops on a four lane road? Wouldn't it be safer for the children if the bus entered the subdivision and picked the kids up there?

After all, the primary focus is to keep the kids safe right?
Thomas Paine
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February 22, 2013
There you go using common sense again. This is the Cobb County School District. Common sense does not apply.
anonymous
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February 22, 2013
If they are looking for something to spend the money on after the company gets their overly excessive cut of the profit, they should look to making up the two million plus dollars lost on their boondoggle Telematix system. Then maybe they can restore a few bus stops so we don't have to walk so far to catch a bus, then maybe give drivers a pay raise. They deserve it.
daveyy
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February 22, 2013
Yeah, that's what Cobb county needs, more school bus stops. One every 300 feet is just overkill. And, no, I'm not exaggerating, there are several areas around my neighbourhood where the bus stops are 300 feet apart.
anonymous
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February 22, 2013
davey, you are wrong. Bus stops were cut three or so years ago to supposedly save the district money. All that has happened is parents now drive their kids to the bus stops and make them more dangerous by allowing the kids to disembark their cars to run through traffic to their busses in the morning. Our neighborhood stops sometimes have 20 kids at them.
daveyy
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February 22, 2013
Sorry, but I am not wrong. The school board only streses bus safety first for the children when it is in the school's interest to do so ie. to avoid petty lawsuits. Combine that with society's growing unnatural concern for safety overkill ie. my precious 14 year old child will be hit by a convoy of 18 wheelers barreling through my sub if he/she has to walk more further that 2 houses to a school bus stop. What you end up with are policies are put in place that defy common sense.
VFP42
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February 22, 2013
If the cameras are for "saftey," then why are they "hidden?" Would they be "hidden" so they could secretly generate revenue?
AmericanMale
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February 22, 2013
I don't think a big yellow box on the side of the school bus is "hidden" by any means!
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