SPANAWAY, Wash. - The Bethel School District in rural south Pierce County wants to be the first in the state to install school bus stop arm cameras. But, nearly two years after the school board approved the use of the cameras, the Pierce County Sheriff's Department says it’s still not sure how to make it work.
The cameras, which are already in use in other states like Texas and Montana, are placed on the stop sign that swings out when the bus stops to pick up or drop off kids. It's illegal to drive around the flashing bus signs and the cameras would catch drivers in the act.
It’s become a big problem in the Bethel School District.
"I see it every day," said Heather Gunderson, a bus driver whose job it is to help kids cross the street safely. The district reports around 50 violators a day in some cases.
The district court says it’s ready and able to process the citations issued from one of these cameras. But the Sheriff’s Office, who would issue the tickets to drivers based on the camera footage, is trying to develop a system.
A spokesman says sheriff's officials are monitoring court cases in other states that may help set a precedent.
The school district feels like the county is dragging its feet.
"I'm very surprised it’s taking this long," said Joel Stutheit, Assistant Transportation Director for the district. "I think, as a school district, we think about student safety, and I just have in question what the county is thinking."
Stutheit says the district could especially benefit from these cameras because bus routes are spread across a wide area with fewer sidewalks and higher speeds.
No students have been injured by a bus stop arm violator, but Stutheit says there have been close calls.
The fine for driving past an activated school bus stop arm is $394. A quarter of that money would return to the school district.