Prince George’s police to ticket drivers passing stopped school buses with cameras

As Prince George’s County students return to school next week, the police department is warning drivers of new photo enforcement cameras that will ticket drivers who pass stopped school buses that are picking up or dropping off children.

The technology, which is already being employed in Montgomery and Charles counties, is new to Prince George’s as a pilot program this year with the potential to expand, said Maj. Robert Liberati, head of the police department’s automated enforcement division.

Here are the basics of what drivers should keep in mind as the system rolls starting Tuesday based on a demonstration of the cameras with Prince George’s police.

What is the law?

Maryland law requires motorists to stop 20 feet from the rear or front of a bus when the stop arm is out and lights are flashing.

How many people fail to stop for school buses in Prince George’s?

During a one-day count in April earlier this year, the county recorded nearly 670 drivers who failed to stop for a flashing school bus light, Liberati said. In 2013, police officers issued 180 tickets to drivers, but that number is far below the actual count of people who actually don’t stop for a school bus.

How many cameras will there be?

The county has installed 20 cameras on 20 buses as part of a pilot program. The buses with cameras will circulate throughout the county and will be moved around based on drivers and officers.

How do the cameras work?

The cameras, located on the driver’s side of the school bus, start rolling with the stop arm on the bus is flashing and extended. If cars are found to be overpassing a stopped bus, cameras capture a series of images from the front and back. The images are then sent to the police department, which reviews the images to determine if violations are valid.

How much is the fine?

A ticket will cost drivers $125.

Why is Prince George’s County doing this? More than 80,000 students depend on the bus to get to school, and Liberati said the program is about safety. There have been 10 accidents in the state in the past year involving buses. “An accident involving a child is certainly tragic,” Liberati said, but drivers who get in crashes also suffer trauma too. “School is starting look for the buses.”

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Lynh Bui is a Prince George's County public safety reporter and former Montgomery County education reporter.
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