COLUMBIA — The number of motorists ignoring stop-arms that extend when a school bus stops to let children on and off could decline if South Carolina changes the law to let video evidence be used to fine violators.
On May 21, a Senate committee advanced S. 718. Meanwhile, lawmakers considered the latest tragic evidence that something must be done to stop rogue motorists.
A Gaffney High School student remains hospitalized after she was hit by a driver this month while trying to board her school bus. A 24-year-old woman was charged with unlawful passing of a school bus and violation of a learners permit, according to local media.
“You typically do not have a police officer standing there or sitting at an intersection watching it all unfold,” said Sen. Greg Hembree, R-Horry. “That creates a bit of an enforcement problem.”
He said a county in Georgia that had a 42- percent reduction of violations after installing video cameras on buses.
If the bill passes, school districts would pay for their own video cameras. Some districts already use video cameras on the interior of the vehicles to monitor students.
The proposal would allow video footage to serve as the basis of a uniform traffic ticket for passing a stopped school bus.
Under current law, law enforcement must personally see the violation, go to the magistrate, obtain a warrant, find the driver and serve the warrant – a process advocates of the bill say results in few violators being punished.
For now, a bus driver reports the description of the vehicle and driver and license plate number to local law enforcement.
During a subcommittee hearing on the bill last month, Midlands public school district bus driver Jada Garris said bus drivers often feel that filling out stop-bar violation report doesn’t help the problem. She said there are an estimated 101,300 violations in a given school year, while last year only 460 citations were issued.