School bus cameras help police crack down on traffic violators

AMERICAN FORK, Utah — The Alpine School District is using a new tool to crack down on drivers who disobey the flashing stop signs on buses.

They're recording each law-breaker with cameras-- then giving the footage to police so officers can write tickets.

On Friday afternoon, Carl Gilman got ready to head out on his after-school route.

He said this is his 51st year of driving school buses. It's apparent how much he loves kids.

"I haul the most precious cargo in the world," he said.

Gilman takes his job seriously, and he has to. Too often, he sees scary situations outside his bus.

"I see people texting while we're driving in rush hour traffic," Gilman said.

Those people are either too distracted or purposely disregard the law when they drive by his bus while the stop sign is out and flashing.

"I just can't tell people how scary it is, when you have a child in front of your bus and they pass you," he said.

It's a problem that the school district is tackling head on. Joe Hayes, Director of Transportation, said a statewide study focused on finding out how many cars violate the signs. The numbers were alarming.

"In our district alone, on one day, we had over 250 violations where people passed our red lights," Hayes said.

That's why several new school buses will come equipped with little cameras on the outside. Hayes said each bus already has cameras inside. These new cameras outside are posted at the front and rear of the bus to record traffic.

Hayes said the cameras are always on and recording.

When a bus driver sees a car pass them illegally, the driver hits a red button to mark a spot in the recording.

Shaun Adams then takes a look at the video, and sends it to police. Adams said the recordings are clear enough to see the make and model of the car, the license plate, and even what the driver looks like.

"This is our fifth day in school, and I've already had three," he said.

He sent one video clip of a woman driving past the bus in Orem.

Orem Police Lieutenant Craig Martinez said the video is a great tool to help them identify the driver. The video paired with a witness statement from the bus driver, he said, is enough to issue a citation.

In the case of the woman this week, he said officers called her and gave the woman a warning.

"Just kind of someone that, they needed a little reminder of what we're supposed to do and how we're supposed to keep the kids on the bus safe," Lt. Martinez said.

He said he expects they'll take in at least a few incidents a week.

Right now, the district said two buses are equipped with the camera. They expect to add five more this fall.