ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — When Albany County first launched its partnership to install stop arm cameras for area school district buses, Executive Dan McCoy says he was met with skepticism.
“I’ve had people say, why are you doing this, nothing’s happened. Thank God. You know? But I don’t wanna have to hear that one story,” McCoy says at a press event Friday.
Unfortunately, he says he was shocked and dismayed to see just how right local leaders had to be worried after reviewing results from South Colonie Central School District, the first to fully roll out its bus fleet reequipped with stop arm cameras. McCoy says after a brief grace period allowing locals to get up to speed, the cameras caught 923 drivers illegally passing stopped school buses from November 28 to December 28.
McCoy on Friday sharing a few of the violation videos he dubbed “alarming” and “stomach-turning”.
“The gasps in the room when we were briefed on this, I felt sick to my stomach, because it was a lot worse than I thought it was,” he says. “That’s even taking into account the students had winter break, but still you’re issuing [more than 900] tickets.”
BusPatrol is the partnership company that installs the cameras free for districts that opt in, taking 60 percent of the fines to fund the program. The remaining 40 percent goes to Albany County, totaling about $92,300 so far.
McCoy says the money will go to education on the dangers of passing buses, as well as likely contribute to hiring more staff to get through the mounting pile of violations for review. McCoy says they’ve already gotten plenty of complaints, but the benefit to student safety is worth it.
“There’s probably a lot of angry people out there, but how would you feel if you hit a child?” he asks.
A sample violation shows the tickets cost $250 and includes photos of the violating vehicle, as well as a link to watch video from the alleged passing. Videos are collected by BusPatrol, forwarded to Albany County’s safety departments for review, then a determination is made whether or not to mail out a citation.
“So those video clips that you are seeing that go with these citations, the violator can go back on, login with the information they have on the citation, and watch back those videos. Basically see that evidence that’s against them,” explains Adam Hornick, former Bethlehem Police Commissioner and current Albany County Director of Safety.
“Unfortunately, sometimes it takes actions like this to get people to really see what they’re doing. I think most people don’t intend to do it,” says Bethlehem Central School District Director of Student Transportation Karim Johnson.
NEWS10 visiting the BCSD bus garage Friday as BusPatrol technicians installed cameras to their buses as well. Johnson says they’ll be ready to roll out by the end of the month.
“This new technology, we embrace it because student safety is paramount,” he says.
McCoy urging more districts to opt in while Johnson adds consistency can only make students safer.
“At the end of the day, it really shouldn’t matter. If a yellow bus is stopped, they should stop, regardless of if there’s a camera on the bus or not,” Johnson concludes.