ROCKVILLE, Md., March 6, 2012—The Montgomery County Council today unanimously approved Bill 37-11 that authorizes installation of cameras on County school buses to monitor vehicles that illegally pass stopped buses.
Councilmember Valerie Ervin, chair of the Council’s Education Committee, was the chief sponsor of the bill. Council President Roger Berliner, Vice President Nancy Navarro and Councilmembers Phil Andrews, Marc Elrich, Nancy Floreen, George Leventhal, Craig Rice and Hans Riemer were co-sponsors. The bill was the subject of a public hearing on Jan. 24.
Councilmembers Ervin and Andrews, who chairs the Council’s Public Safety Committee, earlier today in Rockville were joined by Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) Board of Education President Shirley Brandman, Board of Education Vice President Christopher Barclay, Superintendent of Schools Joshua Starr, Police Chief J. Thomas Manger, Police Captain Thomas Didone. MCPS Director of Transportation Todd Watkins and MCPS bus drivers Bob Herron and Michael White at a news conference in front of a bus already fitted with an experimental camera. They united today to stress the importance that the cameras will have in protecting school children.
“We are fortunate that we passed this bill today without the need to name it after a child who has been killed by someone who believes that speeding past a stopped school bus is more important than protecting our County’s school children,” said Counclmember Ervin. “The goal of this bill is to keep our students safe by changing driver behavior.”
Bill 37-11 authorizes the County’s Chief of Police, after consulting with the Board of Education, to install cameras on Montgomery County Public School buses to monitor traffic. In a Nov. 22 memo to the Board of Education, Councilmember Ervin asked the board to support the bill.
“Given the obvious danger of people driving past school buses that are picking up or discharging students, and given that this dangerous situation occurs frequently, it is crucial to try to deter their dangerous driving behavior through placing cameras on school buses to protect school children,” said Councilmember Andrews.
The bill will implement Maryland State Senate Bill 679, which was passed by the 2011 General Assembly and allowed for the installation of cameras on the outside of County school buses. Drivers caught on tape illegally passing a stopped school bus would be subject to a maximum civil fine of up to $250. No points would be assessed to an individual’s driving record.
“I appreciate the continued partnership of the County Council in helping us keep our students safe throughout the school day,” said Superintendent of Schools Starr. “Our school buses travel 100,000 miles a day and student safety is the top priority of our bus drivers and transportation staff. It is my hope that this legislation will provide additional incentive for drivers to stop and give our students the opportunity to get on and off the school bus safely.”
A Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) survey released in March 2011 reported that in a single day in February, 7,028 drivers overtook stopped buses in Maryland. The report stated 56.9 percent of the violators were oncoming vehicles passing the bus from the opposite direction; 37.9 percent passed the bus from behind on the driver’s side; and 5.2 percent passed the bus of the side of the bus passenger door. The survey was coordinated by MSDE along with transportation directors in all 24 County school systems. Approximately 65 percent (more than 4,700) of all bus drivers statewide participated in the survey.
“One-hundred-thousand kids ride a bus to school in Montgomery County,” said Police Chief Manger. “Anything that we can do to keep them safe is a worthwhile endeavor.”
The approximately 1,500 County school bus drivers file an average of 500 reports each about drivers who illegally pass their stopped buses during a school year.
“My fellow bus drivers and I fought hard to see this law enacted,” said bus driver Bob Herron. “We see violations on a daily basis and our main concern was making sure that the students are able to safely travel to and from school.”
Councilmember Ervin said the County’s bus drivers urged passage of a measure that became Bill 37-11.
“I want to thank the dedicated bus drivers who brought this issue to my attention,” she said. “This bill was passed thanks to the collaborative efforts of the school system, the Police Department and SEIU Local 500.”
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