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Lee Schools to install cameras on bus stop arms

Matt Grant

Photo: Video by fox4now.com

Lee Schools to install cameras on bus stop arms

CREATED Jan. 11, 2013

FORT MYERS - It's the most basic rule of the road: when you see a stop sign, you stop. But when it comes to braking for school buses, some drivers are ignoring those flashing red lights. 

To crack down, the Lee County School District is installing test cameras on school bus stop arms in March. The district  is one of a handful across the state selected to test the cameras for free as part of a pilot program.

The cameras will record the license plates of cars that ignore the bus' stop sign.

On 41 in Fort Myers, Josh Burnside is waiting for the bus to drop off his 5-year-old daughter. It's 3:30 Friday, and as several kindergartners walk off the bus, a car with plenty of time to stop flies past the bus.

The bus driver honked her horn to no effect.

"This is just sickening," said Burnside.

Burnside is sick of seeing cars like that blow past his daughter's bus. He says he worries about her safety every day.

While our camera caught the driver breaking the law, it's not an isolated case.

On Thursday, Burnside shot video of eight cars, traveling in the opposite direction, blatantly ignoring the bus' stop sign. 

By law, unless there is a 5-foot median, traffic in both directions must stop.

"Why do you think they don't stop?," asked Fox 4 reporter Matt Grant.

"Because they don't care," said Burnside. 

To crack down, the Lee County School District will begin installing cameras on bus stop sign arms from March to May.

"My hair's standing up," said District Transportation Director Robert Morgan, "because I'm excited."

Right now it is just a pilot program. If it is implemented permanently, the recordings would be turned over to law enforcement.

The district encourages bus drivers to write down the license plates of cars that ignore their stop sign but that can be difficult.

Fox 4 showed Morgan the video Burnside shot.

"Shameful isn't it?," said Morgan. "Shame on those people that went past."

"Is there anything the district can do to help cut down on some of this stuff?," asked Grant.

"You are helping," said Morgan. "You are helping, Matt. You are bringing this awareness out."

In 2011 and again last year a Fox 4 investigation exposed drivers blowing past stopped buses.

"Do you know it's illegal to go around a stopped bus?," Grant asked a driver who went around a stopped bus and was pulled over the a sheriff's deputy last year.

"Now I do," the driver responded.

Morgan hopes other drivers will get the message. When asked if he would alert the sheriff's office after watching the video Morgan responded: "Already done."

The cameras will be installed from March to May. No word yet on if they will be permanent or if the video will be turned over to police during this trial phase.

The penalty for passing a stopped school bus is four points on your license and a $264 fine.

Matt Grant
mgrant@fox4now.com

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