(The Center Square) — The Pennsylvania General Assembly has moved to preserve cameras used on school bus stop-arms to fine motorists who ignore the signs.
Without legislative action, the authorization for the cameras would have expired on October 24.
The cameras are used to fine violators $300, with $250 going to the school to maintain the cameras, $25 to the local police department, and $25 for a school bus safety grant program.
A Wednesday vote in the House approved Senate Bill 851 by a 178-25 vote after the Senate passed it unanimously earlier this month.
The cameras were originally authorized as a five-year pilot program, as The Center Square previously reported, and garnered the support of PennDOT officials as a way to improve safety.
“Sadly, there have been too many instances of drivers making poor decisions with respect to the treatment (of construction workers, schoolchildren, cyclists, and pedestrians),” PennDOT Secretary Michael Carroll told the Senate Transportation Committee during a September hearing.
The bill specifies that motorists can appeal the fine, stating that owners of a vehicle are not liable if they were not the driver or if the camera was out-of-compliance for accuracy, certification, or calibration issues.
Police review is required to verify that a violation occurred.
The commonwealth has a number of incidents every year when children board a school bus. In Slippery Rock on Tuesday, an 11-year-old was hospitalized after a driver ran her over as she crossed the street. Though the bus was at rest, with its stop sign extended and lights on, the driver said he didn’t see it.
In October 2022, an 11th-grade-girl in York County was killed in a hit-and-run as she boarded her school bus.
And in December 2022, a 16-year-old girl in Erie County also died after a car ran her over as she tried to board a school bus.
A number of children have also been injured and killed while waiting at their bus stops.
In February 2023, a 6-year-old girl in Westmoreland County was killed while waiting for the bus. In December 2022, a student in Cambria County was also injured waiting for a bus after a car collided with a postal truck in heavy fog and careened into her. Two weeks after a York County student was killed, a driver struck another student as he biked to school. Students in Butler County, Berks County, and Westmoreland County have also been injured on their way to school.
Speed, poor road design like a dearth of crosswalks, and a lack of crossing guards have all been mentioned as problems associated with the crashes.