The St. Mary’s County Board of Education and sheriff’s office are now free to put cameras on school buses to catch drivers going past them when they are stopped.
The county commissioners granted approval on Tuesday by a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) voting no.
A private vendor will be selected to install the cameras and maintain the cameras on school buses. That vendor gets the money from tickets issued until the cost of the system is recovered. A technician or a sheriff’s deputy would actually authorize tickets to drivers caught on camera, said Sheriff Tim Cameron (R).
Tickets issued for running past automated stop signs on school buses are civil citations not to exceed $250, and if caught on camera don’t add points to a driver’s license under the automated system. However, tickets issued by sheriff’s deputies for the offense are moving violations that carry points and a $550 fine, Cameron said last month.
The sheriff’s office issued 73 citations last year for drivers running stop signs on buses, which the sheriff said “doesn’t speak really to the number of people that violate the law.”
The camera system will mail out tickets to the registered owner of a vehicle caught passing a stopped school bus and doesn’t necessarily identify the driver. The vendor will provide a website address where the video of the infraction can be viewed.
Jones voted against the program Tuesday because she said there is no defined answer on how long a vendor will keep videos of drivers and vehicles on computer servers. She said she did not support the measure “for the reason of the civil liberties issues that are unresolved with this kind of technology. I don’t feel good about this and I’m not going to vote for it.”
Commissioner Larry Jarboe (R) said, “It’s always going to protect the kids, that’s the main thing.” If a driver contests running a bus stop sign, there will be video evidence of it happening or not, he said.
“If you mess up, you mess up,” he said. A public hearing was held last month where the superintendent of schools supported the program.