JAMES CITY COUNTY — Big yellow school buses are a common sight around Williamsburg and James City County, especially when school is in session. Next time you see one, particularly one signaling that it is stopping to pick up or drop off kids, pay close attention to that stop sign.
On the arm, as well as several other spots around the bus, there are cameras designed to catch motorists who are breaking the law. Barely two weeks into the school year and the Bus360 Student Safety Platform is being kept busy. As of Sept. 9 James City County Police have issued 92 citations out of 146 incidents they have reviewed.
More than 150 school buses in the Williamsburg-James City County (WJCC) fleet are equipped with the technology. The system includes a stop-arm camera as well as safety cameras on all sides of the bus. There is also a wide-angle interior camera. School transportation officials are able to access footage through the program’s cloud software and use it to work with local law enforcement.
Between September of 2019 and March of 2020, WJCC school bus drivers reported more than 2,200 unofficial violations in the community.
“Every time a car passes a stopped school bus, the driver is endangering the lives of our children,” said John Lambusta, WJCC Schools director of transportation. “Data suggests that drivers illegally pass school buses more than 300 times a month in Williamsburg and James City County.
According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), drivers are required to follow certain laws when encountering a school bus. Per the DMV website:
- stop for stopped school buses with flashing red lights and an extended stop sign when approaching from any direction.
- remain stopped until everyone is clear and the bus moves again.
- stop whenever the bus is loading or unloading passengers, even if the lights and stop sign are not activated.
If a school bus is on the opposite side of a median or barrier, motorists aren’t required to stop; however, drivers should be prepared for students exiting the school bus and crossing into their lanes.
The penalty for a first time violation is a $250 fine which will goes toward the cost of the BusPatrol system.