County Comment: Commissioners take steps to enhance school bus safety

County Comment
Commissioners take steps to enhance school bus safety
By Norman Bassett
Washington County Maryland Public Information Officer

Soon, when you see a school bus stopped with red lights flashing, smile...you could be on camera.
By unanimous vote in its April 10th meeting, the Washington County Board of County Commissioners approved an Ordinance allowing video cameras to be attached to school buses, to record motorists illegally passing a stopped bus.
The vote came following a public hearing. No one spoke either in favor of or against the proposal.
In January, County Sheriff Doug Mullendore approached the Board with a request to find a suitable contractor for installation of video cameras on the exterior of County school buses in order to reduce vehicles running the flashing red lights and stop bar when the buses are loading and unloading students.
The County is one of the first jurisdictions in Maryland to make use of a State law that went into effect in September of last year, allowing monitoring of motorists.
All costs will be absorbed by the vendor, who could possibly receive a portion of fines collected as payment. Fines for violators captured on camera would be $250, but no license points would be issued. The cameras would only be used for passing violations and in cases of safety to students and bus operators. Warnings will be issued during the first 60 days the cameras are in use.
The Sheriff's Department is able to catch less than 100 of the estimated 300 violators each year, and Mullendore said use of the cameras should allow that number to increase.
In casting his vote, Commissioner Jeff Cline said, "Safety is paramount, and I think this will add safety for our kids."
Earlier in the meeting Cline, who is from Williamsport, spoke about the school bus accident on April 11th, 1935 that killed 14 Williamsport students. That bus was struck by a train in Rockville, Md. Cline spoke about how his townspeople donated $180,000 at the height of the Depression, to build a library to honor the students.
Out of that tragedy came good, Cline said. President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed legislation to improve safety at railroad crossings across the nation following that event, he said.
Commissioner Bill McKinley, a former Williamsport High School Principal, also commented on the crash, saying that up until that time there were no safety regulations for school buses. Many of the safety regulations now in place resulted from the incident, he said.