Cameras mounted on school buses could keep children safer


Public service announcements and news stories alike have tried to hammer home why drivers should stop when the bus' lights start to flash and the stop sign comes out.  However, Roquel Thornton, who's been driving school buses for five years, says that doesn't always happen.

"Today, it's probably happened at least five or six times," said Thornton.

Since 1999, 12 children in North Carolina have died at school bus stops. There were four deaths just last year. In most cases, the stop arm was fully out.  

School bus drivers report an average of more than 3,000 vehicles blowing past their buses with lights flashing and stop signs extended every day.

"It makes you nervous," said Thornton. "I mean, it could be my child. It could be your child. God knows it could be theirs."

The pilot program for the bus cameras showed numerous times when drivers just ignored the stop sign and lights.

To put the brakes on the problem, the state is spending more than $1 million over the next two years putting cameras on school buses, which will only cover a handful of buses in the state. Officials are hoping it will make a difference.

"If you get caught on camera and you tell your friends, maybe both of you will think twice the next time you come up on a school bus with the lights flashing," said Derek Graham, with the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction.

However, there is a catch with the cameras. Schools and courts have to work together, and that's easier said than done.

While a pilot program in Rowan County has paid off, in Wake County, it hasn't had the same results. However, Graham says as more cameras are installed, more counties will see more success.

"The model is out there," said Graham.

From where Thornton sits, that makes it worth pursuing. As she sees it, unless something changes, it's not if another child will be hit but when.

"You think about it, but I just pray it doesn't happen," said Thornton.

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