McDONOUGH — This week is National School Bus Safety Week and officials are campaigning to raise awareness in Henry County.
“Henry County has added more bite to its zero tolerance policy when it comes to keeping our school children safe,” said Henry County Sheriff Keith McBrayer.
The sheriff’s office is partnering with Henry County Schools and the Henry County Solicitor’s Office in a program designed to reduce incidents where motorists illegally pass stopped school buses.
The school district is among the first nationwide to implement Redflex Student Guardian, a fully-automated safety camera system that monitors drivers who illegally pass buses. The system was developed by the Providence, R.I.-based SmartBus Live, which was recently bought out by Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., a Phoenix, Ariz.-based company.
The sheriff’s and solicitor’s offices help prosecute and fine those caught passing illegally.
Cliff Shearouse is the transportation services director for Henry County Schools. He said the problem of illegally passing persists in Henry County.
“We’re continuing to monitor the cameras we’ve got,” said Shearouse. “We’re adding more buses to that program because it is still a common problem every day for us.”
The district outfitted three of its buses with cameras in the spring and have added units to another seven buses.
Shearouse said the district will add four more cameras for a total of 14 cameras.
“Bus drivers are requesting to have the cameras,” he said.
Shearouse said violations have been reported by bus drivers in rural and urban areas of the county. There are nearly 23,000 students who board the district fleet of 300 buses daily.
Henry County Solicitor General Trea Pipkin said the new cameras will offer a reminder to motorists about the rules of the road.
“We want the public to be aware that when a school bus stop arm is out, all traffic must stop. That’s the law,” said Pipkin. “Thanks to these new cameras, there will be consequences for those who break the law and jeopardize the safety of our students.”
McBrayer said he believes the violations are partly the result of motorists not paying attention to their surroundings and partly due to driver negligence or impatient drivers who disregard the law.
“We view this technology as a necessary tool that will allow our deputies to expand their reach as it relates to their ability to detect and enforce this most flagrant violation, endangering our children,” said McBrayer. “In the future, if the safety of our school children is not enough reason for inconsiderate motorists to wait, hopefully the probability of a ticket and fine will be.”