Soon, the wheels on the bus could go round and round and record bad driving all over town.
The Lafayette Parish School Board’s Executive Committee recently received pitches from two companies — Redflex Student Guardian and Force Multiplier Solutions — vying for a contract with the school system to equip buses with cameras that would capture images of motorists violating traffic laws, such as failing to obey a school bus’ stop arm.
The stop sign is deployed when the bus stops to pick up or drop off children, and state law requires motorists traveling in both directions — with the exception of oncoming traffic on a five-lane roadway — to stop.
Both companies have track records in school districts across the country. Redflex operates the city of Lafayette’s red-light camera enforcement, while Force Multiplier is used on school buses in other areas of the state — including Jefferson and East Baton Rouge parishes.
Representatives for both companies have said the enforcement programs will cost the School Board nothing up front. The program would be funded by violations paid by drivers who don’t follow the law and are caught on camera.
The companies will make presentations on Dec. 2 to the full board, which will make a decision on contracting with one of the companies.
It could take up to six months for any type of enforcement program to commence because it requires agreements with local law enforcement and an appropriate local government ordinance.
It’s possible the existing ordinance that allows for camera enforcement could be amended to include the bus camera enforcement, said Charlie Buckels, of Redflex Traffic Systems, but a separate ordinance might be needed.
Buckels and Casey Ponder, of Force Multiplier Solutions, both presented information to the School Board’s Executive Committee on Nov. 2.
Enforcement cameras were placed on five school buses to test them out, which produced evidence of motorists running the stop arms. At least 70 violations would have resulted in citations, based on Force Multiplier Solutions recordings from five buses in a three-month time frame, Ponder told the Executive Committee last week.
The Force Multiplier Solutions’ “BusGuard Brain” system also is capable of tracking stops along the route for a review of bus route logs, with time stamps of locations of stops along the route. The system can also be programmed to send transportation staff alerts when a bus driver is driving erratically, speeding or in a collision.
At least 105 citations were detected during Redflex’s deployment, though not all would have resulted in a violation being issued, Buckels said. The fine for a violation could be up to $400 or $500, depending on the fee worked out with the company, Buckels said.
“It would be no cost to the Lafayette Parish school system, and our fee would be in the neighborhood roughly (of) $200, plus or minus, for a paid citation,” he said.
He added, “We don’t get paid unless you get paid.”
Both systems also include interior and exterior cameras for improved safety.
Board President Tommy Angelle said during the committee meeting that he expects that some bus drivers won’t like the idea of having the cameras on their buses.
Transportation Director Damon Evans has said he’d like to see the cameras deployed on all buses. He expressed confidence that issues with reluctant drivers could be worked out.
“We don’t see a lot of problems going forward. Only problem is maybe with the contract drivers. We can look at policy,” Evans said during the board’s committee meeting.
Board Vice President Dawn Morris, who is a lawyer, agreed with Evans that usage of the cameras could become a requirement in contracts that are up for renewal.
“I figure if they don’t want it on the bus, they’re doing something wrong,” Evans continued. “It’s a safety issue.”
Buckels recommended a rollout to select buses of about 25 at a time rather than a full deployment of the system to the entire fleet. He further recommended that the school system use data to decide which bus routes to target first.
Both companies have been asked to present a time line at the board’s Dec. 2 meeting on what it would take to deploy camera enforcement, as well as 360-degree interior and exterior camera coverage, on 205 board-owned buses.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.