New city ordinance will allow school districts to fine dangerous drivers

Drivers passing stopped school buses may have to pay fines

SAN ANTONIO – A new San Antonio city ordinance that takes affect Dec. 5 will allow school districts to hit drivers in the wallet when they ignore laws regarding stopped school buses.

The ordinance, which works in conjunction with current state laws, gives school districts the authority to impose civil penalties or fines.

Cameras installed on more than 700 local school buses will help district officials identify violators -- drivers who fail to stop when a school bus has its stop sign and crossing arm extended.

"If someone passes that bus with the stop arm out, their pictures are taken; letters are being sent to the person to notify them that there is a violation," San Antonio District 4 City Councilman Alan Warrick, who helped pass the ordinance, said. "We know that by doing this, at least 20 percent of those folks will not (violate the law)."

North East, Judson, Southside, South San Antonio and Southwest Independent school districts plan to take part in the program. The districts have either installed or will be installing cameras on their buses. 

NEISD was part of a pilot program, trying out the cameras on two of its buses between the fall of 2014 and spring 2016.

"During that period, just two school buses in this school district, we had over 1,160 violations," NEISD Superintendent Brian Gottardy said during a news conference Tuesday morning.

Warrick said studies show that on average, there is at least one violation per day involving every school bus in the city.

The councilman said the cameras and their upkeep are being provided free of cost to taxpayers. A third-party company, BusGuard, provides, installs and maintains the cameras and notifies violators. The school districts will receive a portion of the revenue generated.

"The money is going 100 percent to the school districts, and we hope that they are using these monies to also improve safety," Warrick said.

In addition to the cameras that watch for violators, the buses also have cameras inside and on the rear.  Warrick said those cameras will help keep an eye out for other dangers, such as on-board bullies or child predators who may be following a bus.

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