Camera system catches more than 100 drivers illegally passing school buses in Burke County

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Saturday, September 7, 2019
News 12 at 11

BURKE COUNTY, GA (WRDW/WAGT) -- Studies show an average of seven students are killed in school bus crashes each year, but 19 are killed just by getting on and off the bus. Burke County Schools are trying to change that by using cameras to catch violators in the act.

Burke County is the only school system with these cameras, but the hope is it'll catch on in other school districts. Since adding the 7-camera system, last year, they've already handed out 130 tickets. The conversation to add these cameras all started when two of their own students were injured when getting on the bus.

"All I remember is going to the bus stop and crossing the road and I remember just blacking out," JaQuan White said.

When JaQuan White was in 1st grade he was hit by a car trying to get on the school bus in 2010. It was a driver ignoring the law, flashing lights and bus stop sign that sent White to the hospital.

"That prompted the need for us to try and be proactive to try to curb this bad behavior," Clay Dishmond said.

Dishmond is the Burke County transportation director.

"Georgia led the nation for about five years straight for having the most fatalities while loading and unloading," Dishmond said.

He says the only way to punish or put a stop to the violations is to catch them red handed with cameras.

"We are very happy that they are being caught and that this program is working," Dishmond said. "Otherwise we have violators that will go unnoticed on a daily basis."

Once the stop bar goes out, the cameras kick on and start recording. Since these cameras went live February 28th, more than 100 tickets have been written. 130 to be exact.

Just this school year, the Burke County Sheriff's Office says they've ticketed 31 drivers.

"We're hoping to get to zero infractions," Dishmond said. "We want to stop this so that our students can be safe."

Cameras are not even on half the school buses, just 10 of 68, but they are still catching a significant amount of violators. Dishmond says the majority of those violations happen on River Road, 25 N and 56 N.

"You never know which bus you may be passing that has a camera system outfitted," Dishmond said.

Dishmond wants drivers to think about the bug picture.

"I want them to consider or to think about what if this was your child and somebody ran that stop sign and your child was struck, injured, or possibly killed? How would you feel?" Dishmond asked. "If we all treat those bus stops that way, we'd have less violations."

If you're caught on camera you'll be mailed a $250 ticket. The money earned goes back to paying for the cameras. Once the cameras are payed off, Dishmond says they plan to use the ticket money to add cameras to more of their buses.

You may even see the ticket fine get more expensive. Georgia, along with other states are considering increasing those fines to $750.