Districts consider placing cameras
on buses to catch illegal passers
Photo by Troy Wayrynen A Vancouver School District School bus makes its way across Salmon Creek along NW
36th Ave. Tuesday March 1, 2011 in Vancouver, Washington. Vancouver School District students went to class on
time, as other districts closed and delayed class schedules.
By Estelle Gwinn
The Columbian/Murrow News Service
Monday, October 10, 2011
OLYMPIA — Clark County school districts are considering installing video surveillance
on school buses in hopes of keeping kids safe and catching unsafe drivers.
A law passed in the 2011 legislative session allowed school districts to voluntarily install
video cameras on buses, making it easier to catch drivers neglecting school bus stop
signs and passing illegally.
The ticket fine for passing a school bus is $394. Those fines generated from the use of
cameras would be used to pay for the camera systems, although some districts do not
think the systems would be worth the cost. Officials say the system would cost
somewhere between $3,000 and $7,000 per bus.
Battle Ground and Hockinson school districts are not currently interested in installing the
systems, said Mike Gately, manager of Petermann Northwest, the transportation
company that handles busing for the two districts.
“Initially looking at it, the cost of the cameras versus the revenue generated from fines
doesn’t seem like it would make a lot of sense at this time,” Gately said. While they do
encounter some drivers passing the buses illegally, it isn’t a big concern.
Without cameras, bus drivers must identify drivers who are illegally passing them, a
system that has been in place for years and has not been particularly effective, said
Allan Jones, director of pupil transportation for the Office of Superintendent of Public
“Imagine being a bus driver and having kids get off the bus, then here comes a car not
slowing down and passes the bus and you’re trying to get a good identification of the
driver while you’re frantically watching the kids. You’re not going to be able to,” Jones
If drivers could make an identification they could fill out a form with local law
enforcement, who are sometimes too busy and understaffed to follow through, Jones
So far in 2011 there have been 15 school bus collisions in Clark County, according to
Washington State Patrol Trooper Ryan Tanner. Tanner said he had not seen an
increase in illegal school bus passing but said surveillance would be helpful in an
Jones, who was a bus driver in Seattle for 14 years, said there hasn’t been an increase
in illegal passing because it’s always been a big problem. Jones said he had drivers
illegally pass him every day, adding up to shocking numbers across the state.
“We have over 7,000 drivers out there every day doing a route and if there was just one
person a week that went through their lights, that’s over 200,000 a year. If we can cut
that number down that would be great,” Jones said. “When we talk about those kind of
numbers, people just don’t believe us.”
Scott Deutsch, who is in charge of risk management and safety for Evergreen Public
Schools, said they had discussed using the new system with the Vancouver Police
Department but they were far from implementing it yet.
“There are a lot of partnerships that would need to be in place to do something like that.
It would have to go through the city council and school board for approval,” Deutsch
said. “But it is something that we’ve talked about.”
After paying for the camera systems, leftover money generated from the automated
tickets would be given to the school districts. Districts could use that revenue to pay for
school safety zone projects, saving school districts money.
“There’s about six different versions of the school zone sign, they’re trying to get rid of
all those different variations and just standardize them to when the lights are flashing.
That’s just one example of something they could use that money for,” Jones said.
Improving signs is something Evergreen has been working toward, said Deutsch, who
said any funding to help enhance signage would be good.
The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is holding a public hearing Friday in
Olympia to write the law in the School Bus Specifications Manual; districts can choose
to install the systems beginning Nov. 7.