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Peabody Schools to Install Cameras, Stop-Arm Tech on Buses

A Massachusetts school district has entered a zero-cost pilot program with BusPatrol to put digital cameras on buses to enforce violations, giving vendors limited access to registries to in order to issue citations.

School bus stop sign
Shutterstock/Jerry Horbert
(TNS) — The city of Peabody is stepping up its efforts to reduce the number of drivers who fail to stop for school buses in violation of the law.

The School Committee voted unanimously to authorize Mayor Edward A. Bettencourt, Jr. to enter into a zero-cost pilot program with BusPatrol, a leader in the field of bus stop-arm camera technology, to install video cameras on the stop arms of up to 10 Peabody school buses. The program will start in the fall and run through the 2023-24 school year.

"We're the first in the state to do this, which will enable us to use the data collected from BusPatrol to push a state-wide law. We want to lead that charge," said Bettencourt. "This is a great opportunity for Peabody to help galvanize the effort to have this part of the state law."

Bettencourt noted that relevant legislation — H5103 Safety of Children on School Buses — has been "stagnant" for more than 10 years.

H5103 would authorize communities to install digital cameras on school buses to enforce violations against drivers who fail to stop for school buses "when required." Vendors would have limited access to registries to gather enough information to issue citations to violators.

Maria Scheri, who founded the Stop the Operator from Passing (STOP) campaign to attempt to curb reckless drivers, said the BusPatrol program is data-driven and will educate legislators about the problem.

"Obviously without the bus stop-arm camera bill being passed, citations cannot be issued, but the data will be helpful and give us some leverage to urge our lawmakers to pass the bill," she said.

Bettencourt said that there have been a couple of "close calls" recently in the city "that could have been tragic."

He credited Scheri for bringing BusPatrol into the conversation and said he was impressed with the work she was doing to shed light on the seriousness of the problem.

Scheri described the conditions during drop-off and pick-up at the Brown School as "mayhem."

"It's amazing how many people pass the bus and the kids, who are trying to cross the street," Scheri said. "There's just not enough law enforcement to be behind every bus in America. We need to do our due diligence for our schoolchildren."

Scheri noted that the pilot program will also enhance safety for kids who are walking or biking to school.

BusPatrol's Jason Elan said school buses are passed illegally more than 17 million times a year nationwide.

"These stop-arm violations endanger the lives of millions of students every day," Elan said. "I think we all agree that we can do better. We view this as an opportunity to partner with the community of Peabody to shine the light on this ongoing school bus crisis and to demonstrate why the Massachusetts state legislature should consider adoption of a program that would allow places like Peabody to enact these programs to make our roads safer for our kids."

Committee member Brandi Carpenter thanked Scheri for bringing the matter forward and suggested that the city use billboards to send a message that if you pass a school bus, you will be caught on camera.

Committee member Jarrod Hochman brought up privacy concerns related to students who are not allowed to be photographed. He also questioned whether video footage containing evidence of improper behavior on the part of a school employee could be used in a disciplinary proceeding.

"This causes me some concern about the breadth of this," Hochman said.

BusPatrol's Rodney Lemieux said that BusPatrol is working with 150 school districts and that all are "observing the privacy concerns" and "aligning to all laws that are out there." He said BusPatrol will work any privacy concerns Peabody schools may have into the pilot agreement.

Committee member Joe Amico said he was "shocked" that 22 states have adopted laws before Massachusetts.

"Shame on us," he said.

Committee member Beverley Griffin Dunne said that she "really likes the program and believes that retrieved data could be used to determine safer bus routes and drop-off and pick-up locations, thereby enhancing police protection."

©2023 Daily Item, Lynn, Mass. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.