Campbell Among Legislators to Support School Bus Camera Bill to Safeguard Kids

School Transportation Association of Massachusetts president David Strong held up this year's National School Bus Safety Week poster at a Transportation Committee hearing Tuesday on proposals to boost student safety. (Courtesy photograph/Sam Doran/SHNS)

Methuen state Rep. Linda Dean Campbell is among the local legislators who spoke out in support of school bus safety at a Tuesday meeting of the Joint Committee on Transportation.

Several bills are once again before the committee to permit installation of bus stop cameras, including one filed by Rep. Paul Donato, the State House News Service reports. Police would then review potential violations and determine if civil citations are warranted, though any punishment would not be surchargeable for insurance purposes.

In both the 2013-14 and 2015-16 sessions, the committee favorably reported similar legislation penned by its House chair, Rep. William Straus. Last year, it folded other proposals into Straus’ bill and again advanced it, but for the third straight session, the matter died in the House Ways and Means Committee.

Advocates of the legislation urged lawmakers Tuesday to continue the push, warning that children’s lives are at risk because of inaction.

“This is a serious problem,” said David Strong, president of the School Transportation Association of Massachusetts. “It always has been, but every year it gets worse.”

Between 2006 and 2015, 102 minors under 18 were killed on foot in crashes involving buses or other school transportation, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Supporters say using technology is a more viable way to crack down on dangerous violations than police patrols, which cannot possibly cover every bus stop every day, or crossing officers on buses.

Campbell, who has pushed for the legislation in several sessions, told the committee she is confident it can pass this time around because concerns over driver privacy and custody of the video were resolved in previous efforts.

Under most of the legislation currently filed, photographs of the front of a vehicle or of the driver would not be saved.

“I believe we're at a point where we're ready to move forward on this,” Campbell said.

Sixteen states have laws in place allowing municipalities or districts to install cameras as a way to track for drivers who pass stopped school buses, as the National Conference of State Legislatures highlighted in a December report.

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