An effort to protect school children entering and exiting school buses is off to a modest, but successful start in Spokane.
Senate Bill 5540<http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5540&year=2011>, sponsored by Sen. Steve Hobbs, D-Lake Stevens<http://www.sdc.wa.gov/senators/hobbs/>, and signed into law a year ago, gave the state's school districts the option to install safety cameras on school bus stop signs in an effort to catch motorists who fail to stop when the signs are deployed.
"Our state has been lucky in that no children have been killed by motorists ignoring these stop signs," Hobbs said. "The same cannot be said around the nation. This is a preventive measure. We shouldn't wait until one of our kids is hurt before doing something about it."
Spokane's Central Valley School District is the first district in the state to use the cameras. According to the Public School Employees of Washington, one of the cameras caught eight violators the first day.
"If I see somebody now I don't have to concentrate on their plate like I did before, now I can concentrate on the kids and make sure they get on the bus and get off safely," said Mike Carpenter, one of three bus drivers in the Central Valley School District whose buses are equipped with the cameras.
Prior to this program, in order to successfully prosecute a driver who ran a school bus stop sign, a bus driver needed to identify the make, model and year of the car, as well as identifying characteristics of the driver such as gender, age, hair color.
"With the video, the police can see who is telling the truth," Carpenter said.
According to a report from KREM.com<http://www.krem.com/news/local/Central-Valley-schools-get-new-bus-safety-cameras-to-catch-risky-drivers--150675045.html>, information about violators will be captured during the pilot period, but no citations will be issued. The district currently reports violators to the Spokane County Sheriff's Department.
"The purpose of this program is not based on issuing citations to create revenue, but to change behavior in drivers," Hobbs said.
There's no word yet on when the program will be expanded to other school districts.