The mascot, a red bird with a CCSD logo on its chest, is called “Hawkeye.”
The bird danced to Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” as it was introduced to about 30 Hollydale Elementary School students at the Cobb Safety Village.
The Cobb and Marietta school districts deploy cameras attached to the sides of buses to fine drivers who pass school buses when the stop arm is out. The first fine costs $300, the second is $750 and a third violation is $1,000.
Cobb schools began using the program in 2011. Marietta City Schools started using the program in 2013.
“When we first started in 2011, it was alarming,” Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said. “We had over 1,300 violations in one month. The good news is since the inception of this program we have significantly cut that number. In January the number was down to under 400. That’s a tremendous success when we can get our kids back safe at home. If we have one violation, that’s one too many. Obviously we want to get down to absolutely zero violations.”
Ragsdale also stressed that the program is “safety generating,” not “money generating.”
Cobb saw 1,300 violations issued in August of 2013. In April, the number was 767, a 40 percent decrease, said Rick Grisham, Cobb’s transportation director.
Grisham said Marietta schools have seen a 25 percent reduction in violations since it started the program. Grisham also said 99 percent of drivers who have received a violation haven’t received a second one.
“That just shows you how important this is,” he said.
According to state law, unless a raised median separates the lanes of traffic, all vehicles traveling in either direction on the road are required to stop when a school bus pulls over and extends its red stop arm.
Until the red stop arm is released, cars must remain stopped.
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.
If seen in person by an officer, the stop-arm violation is a criminal offense and the driver can be fined up to $1,000 and get six points on their license. Anyone 21 and younger will have their license suspended.
Grisham said Hawkeye will be used to help educate students, who in turn will help educate their parents.
Captain Hawk Hageback with the Cobb County Police Department emphasized the importance of stopping for buses.
“Please, for the future of the state of Georgia, just stop,” he said.
Hageback said he doesn’t want to explain to another mother why her child isn’t coming home
Katie Nichols is a fourth-grader at Hollydale Elementary. She rides the bus and says she sees cars run by the stop arm two or three times a week.
“I loved the program today,” she said. “It helps the public learn to be safe.”