Commission To Consider Approval of “Automated Traffic Enforcement System” for School Buses

On the agenda for tonight’s Decatur City Commission meeting, “approval of an agreement with the City Schools of Decatur and American Traffic Solutions, Inc. for equipment, installation and maintenance of an automated traffic enforcement system to detect vehicles illegally passing school buses when children are loading and

Back on May 13th, the Decatur school board approved an agreement with American Traffic Solutions that will result in no capital expense is required by the City or CSD.  Revenue from operation will be split between the city, CSD and the vendor, according to a letter from Police Chief Mike Booker to the City Manager.

How does it work?  Here’s the operational section of Chief Booker’s note…

The camera system uses digital image technology with integrated violation detection. The camera assemblies are bus mounted and work in both daylight and dark Each system monitors four lanes of traffic, and includes a wireless modem and GPS unit.

While students are loading or unloading the bus, the system monitors oncoming vehicles from both  directions. If a violation occurs, an eight second video is captured and three images are extracted. These show a before violation photograph, a during violation photograph, and a close up of the plate.

The images and violation data are combined into a single encoded violation file that is downloaded to the ATS office processing center. ATS reviews the images for license plate readability and transfers the video, images, and vehicle and registered owner information to the City of Decatur Police Department Each violation shows the location of the event, and a data bar also shows that the brake lights, flashing red lights,
and stop arm on the bus were extended.

The City of Decatur Police Department is responsible for reviewing all potential violations. ATS is responsible for retrieving owner information and vehicle description and printing and mailing the citation. Based on data collected from other jurisdictions with school bus safety camera enforcement programs, it is anticipated that after initial installation there will be 6-10 violations per day for ten buses. This should require less than 10 minutes a day of officer review time. As drivers become more familiar with the system, it is anticipated that violations will be reduced by 30-50%. The City Schools of Decatur may install up to 15 systems.

If approved, the system could be in place by the the beginning of the next school year in August.

Photo courtesy of CSD via WABE

16 thoughts on “Commission To Consider Approval of “Automated Traffic Enforcement System” for School Buses”

  1. I was reading this thinking “…this is cool technology but is it really needed?….” when I saw the statement “6-10 violations per day for ten buses”. I had no idea that it is so common for drivers to pass a bus when it is loading/unloading students. To me, passing a stopped bus is like not pulling over or stopping for an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on. I don’t even think about it; it’s a reflex, doesn’t God smite you or something?

    1. “To me, passing a stopped bus is like not pulling over or stopping for an emergency vehicle with its lights and siren on.”

      You’d be surprised by how many people aren’t even aware that they are supposed to stop when they are travelling the opposite direction of the bus if there no is concrete divider.

      1. Maybe those stop arms should be longer so that they actually extend over the middle of the road into the lane of traffic coming the other way. It’s true that some drivers don’t seem to know that traffic is supposed to stop in both directions, not just behind the bus. A big bar in your way is one way to learn. There’d probably be a lot of smashed up arms but better that than smashed children and maybe springs could be used so that the offending vehicle is damaged more than the bus?

        While we are on school buses, it’s always bothered me that most don’t have seatbelts. I know the arguments–cost, slow speed of local bus runs, protective effect of being a big fat bright yellow bus, etc. Don’t buy those arguments given the preciousness of the cargo and the lifetime costs of damaged brains.

  2. Like red light cameras generally, it’s about revenue. And there is no practical way to fight these tickets if you are innocent — you get a ticket some days/weeks after the alleged infraction, there are no witnesses (neither you nor the bus driver are likely to remember it), and all anyone has are three photographs of your car. The circumstances of the buses’ stop and use of its stop sign will be lost to history. And to top it off, a private company will be running your plate numbers, looking up your home address, and sending you the ticket.

    1. According to Chief Booker the police also are able to review the 8 seconds of video from which the three photos are extracted. I am wondering if the accused motorist is at any point able to review the video also. Also, I am wondering if you would be able to tell who was at the wheel of the vehicle when it passed the bus. Will the owner of the vehicle always be considered the guilty party even if was not them behind the wheel at the time?

    2. It’s always hard to argue against something put forth as “protecting our children” but this really isn’t the way to do it.

      Before Decatur shut down their automated red light ticketing system, I got one for running the light on Scott Boulevard at Clairemont. The accompanying pictures clearly showed my car entering the intersection while the light was red. In fact, it showed that the light had been red for over a minute. Even better, it showed the DPD officer in a fluorescent rain coat waving me, and a line of other cars, through the intersection. There had been an accident and the cops were directing traffic, but nobody remembered to turn off the camera so everyone obeying the human traffic controllers got a ticket. The best part about it was that I was the ONLY person who showed up to court to contest it. Presumably everyone else just paid it. Judge Carriere, bless his heart and RIP, just laughed and said “Well, I guess that’s how they pay my salary.”

      1. I appeared before Judge Carriere a long time ago for a ticket, and he was extremely fair and reasonable. I always thought very highly of him, but I somehow missed the fact that he had passed.

      2. agreed. i’m not a fan of the whole cameras recording license plates thing, for a few reasons. i also get pissed when i see donkeyholes passing school buses with their stop sign extended. if it is (and numbers cited here seem to indicate otherwise) a big problem, i’d like a different solution.

  3. I’ve been present at several meetings at the state capitol at which school bus stop arm safety has been discussed. Law enforcement and school employees report that the number of run-throughs are appalling, and apparently, Georgia is a national leader in child deaths at school bus stops.

    While traveling the state, I’ve seen drivers fail to stop many, many times, though fortunately, I’ve observed less of this in Decatur. Whether that’s due to the high number of students walking to school, more careful drivers, or other factors, I’m not sure.

    I do hope that CSD would move forward with the camera plan because run-throughs are endangering CSD children and not due to lobbying by companies standing to profit from the plan.

    1. Did a quick Google search, found this. (I have given up links here, but it’s easy to find);

      “Nine students were killed in school bus loading and unloading accidents in the U.S. in the 2012-13 school year, newly released data show.

      The findings come from the National School Bus Loading and Unloading Survey, which the Kansas State Department of Education’s School Bus Safety Education Unit compiles each year.

      Of the nine children killed in the 2012-13 danger zone incidents, six were hit by vehicles passing their school bus, while the other three were struck by their bus. Those numbers are the same as they were in the 2011-12 school year.”

      So if you subtract the 3 killed by the bus itself — which has nothing to do with obeying the stop sign — you’re down to 6 deaths nationwide in loading/unloading incidents. And that is out of many millions of instances of loading and unloading. Of course all 6 are tragic, but so are deaths from snake bites, shark attacks, lightning stikes, and other similarly rare occurences.

      1. What about injuries? Deaths are just the tip of the iceberg.

        To me, passing an unloading/loading school bus knowingly or not pulling over/stopping for an emergency vehicle is a marker for willful, dangerous driving behavior and disregard for others. Letting this kind of scofflaw know that they are being watched and better shape up seems like a good deterrent to me.

        I do think there’s school bus situations in which it is less clear (at least to me) what is required–e.g divided vs. undivided four-lane highways, fast moving highway traffic in which no one is stopping and you’re afraid you’ll be rear-ended, etc. Increase signage and public education messages might help.

        1. Don’t know about injuries. But given the incredibly small number of deaths I am guessing injuries are also rare.

          As for deterrence, people said the same about red light cameras, and I don’t think they had that effect. The LA Times ran an editorial not too long ago advocating dithcing the cameras because the data showed no measurable deterrent effect.

          1. There was one death in Cobb County this school year. Cobb authorities say there is a deterrent effect because there are almost no repeater offenders there. I think it’s 6 points on your license if you are caught.

            1. I don’t have much of a problem with these cameras, but I’d prefer the deterrent be much stiffer penalties rather than using this method.

          2. For most unintended injuries there’s a high injury to death ratio. Children are very durable. But that doesn’t mean that their injuries don’t hurt. 🙂

  4. Awesome. I love this. I’ve seen folk totally ignore the flashing red lights and stop sign on buses four times in the past few months.

    Now if only we can find a way to send those people who don’t give pedestrians the right of way at intersections to a dimension filled with Lovecraftian horrors.

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