School buses may get exterior traffic cameras

School bus with stop signal out. Photo courtesy of LM Otero/AP on WTXL Tallahassee.

Red lights aren’t the only traffic signals that indicate for drivers to stop. School bus stop signal arms are included in that as well — and yet people ignore them and drive right by them anyway.

According to the Center for Urban Transportation Research at the University of South Florida, Florida’s School Bus Stop Law requires that “on a two-way street or highway, all drivers moving in either direction must stop for a stopped school bus which is picking up or dropping off children.”

According to the statute, you must remain stopped until all children are clear of the roadway and the bus signal has been withdrawn.
In 2019, the Florida Department of Education released a survey that showed 12,749 vehicles illegally passed public school buses out of the 10,136 public school bus drivers who completed the survey on a single day in the state.

Florida state Sen. Danny Burgess (R-Zephyrhills) filed Senate Bill 702, “Photographic enforcement of school bus safety,” in an effort to “get a handle on the issue of people illegally passing school buses in this state,” his legislative assistant, Alexandra Young said.

“Twenty-two states have already adopted similar laws,” Young said. “The bill isn’t mandating anyone to do this, but it gives school districts the option to use a camera enforcement system to catch people running the stop sign and enforce penalties on them when they are caught.”

According to the bill’s text, school districts that choose to enforce recording images on their buses must provide a warning sign or sticker on all buses indicating that the cameras are in use.

Here’s how it works: If a vehicle runs the stop sign, the recording image will capture a picture of the vehicle’s license plate number and state of issuance and the owner of the vehicle will receive a citation with the date, time and place of the alleged violation, as well as a copy of the recorded image showing the vehicle involved.

Once the vehicle owner is notified of the alleged violation, they will either be required to pay the amount of the civil penalty, which can cost between $100 and $400, or they can request a hearing to contest liability within 30 days, according to SB 702. This bill is set to be effective on Jul 1 if approved by both chambers and signed by the governor.

A similar bill, HB 179, was filed by Thad Altman (R-Indian Harbour Beach) and Emily Slosberg-King (D-Boca Raton) on Sept 9, almost one month before SB 702 and had its first reading in the House on Jan 11.

SB 702 passed transportation unanimously on Jan 18 and is now on the agenda in the Judiciary Committee, which is scheduled for 3 p.m. Jan 31 in 412 Knott Building.

Diagram of Florida School Bus Stop Laws from FHSMV. Photo courtesy of WTXL Tallahassee.