State bill aims to ban use of school bus stop-arm cameras, red light cameras

State efforts to ban the use of red light cameras are also threatening the use of school bus cameras that help cite drivers who fail to stop for students who are crossing the street.

The San Antonio Independent School District began using the school bus stop-arm camera system at the beginning of the year. The cameras function like the red light cameras in cities in which a citation is sent by mail to the vehicle owner. 

Nathan Graph, senior executive director of transportation of SAISD, said the goal is safety.

“The sole purpose behind this program is to keep kids safe to and from school,” he said.  

The citations also help pay for the buses to be equipped with more than a half-dozen internal and external cameras, free Wi-Fi for students and a tracking system used by parents to keep track of their student.

“I think this program has been very, very effective, not only from a safety standpoint of getting folks to stop but also from an educational standpoint, because we're extending that instructional day for our kids with the Wi-Fi program,” Graph said.

House Bill 2262 looks to do away with the use of surveillance traffic citations such as red light cameras. State Rep. Ed Thompson is the author of the bill, which is pending in committee.

Several people have spoken out against the bill, including some who are opposed to the use of the red light camera programs. They say the bill allows programs currently in use to be grandfathered.

Graph said the use of the citations helps change driver behavior. When the program was launched, the district was recording about 100 citations a day. Now, it’s seeing about 75 a day.

About 6,000 violations with a citation of $300 each have been issued since October.

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Patty Santos

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