School bus cameras could catch those passing stopped buses

Waterloo Region's head of student transportation is calling for cameras to be installed on the sides of school buses - at a price tag of about $16,000 per bus- in a move that would see drivers who fail to stop for school buses caught and ticketed.

Under the proposal, seven cameras would be mounted on the sides of each bus along with a motion sensor


Waterloo region's head of student transportation is calling for cameras to be installed on the sides of school buses — at a price tag of about $16,000 per bus — in a move that would see drivers who fail to stop for the buses caught and ticketed.

"That's the scariest part of their day - every time they stop the bus to let students off, there's always a risk, and we see it daily, of cars driving by," student transportation services general manager Benoit Bourgault told CBC News.

Bourgault's call comes after a new report that shows regional drivers illegally pass stopped buses, with their stop signs extended, over 500 times each week. The study was conducted by Student Transportation Services of Waterloo Region, which asked bus drivers to track the number of people driving through their stop signs in a given week. The results suggested there were some 500 to 700 violations each week in Waterloo region alone.

"It's urgent," Benoit said. "Every time I meet bus drivers, the first thing they talk to me about is people driving through the stop sign."

Under the proposal, seven cameras would be mounted on the sides of each bus, videotaping the entire ride and tracking when stopping arms and warning lights are extended. A motion sensor would capture any cars dodging the stop signs.

Much like a red-light camera, tickets could be sent directly to the vehicle owner rather than to individual drivers.

One stop on the road to student safety

But fitting the buses won't be cheap. Plans are still in the early stages but could come with a price tag of $16,000 per bus. 

students line up to get on a yellow school bus.
Try to keep your emotions in check until your kids are on the bus, advises Kathy Jones. (Shutterstock)

That cost would be footed by Waterloo Region - not by the school boards or the province and ideally recouped by the revenues generated from catching drivers fail to stop when required.

Waterloo would not be the first region in Ontario to implement the school bus technology. Similar plans have already been adopted in Ottawa and Sudbury with varying degrees of success.

Benoit would like to see the technology in place as soon as possible but says details still need to be worked out between police and the camera vendors. After that, the next step will be to get the municipality and the region to agree to cost-sharing and violation management plans.

Benoit says cameras are only one part of the solution, saying it's possible drivers don't know the rules or might not be paying attention, distracted by phones or other handheld devices. But, he says, they're one stop on the road to improved safety for students who use the bus service.

"At the end of the day the camera is only there as a threat for people to know that they have to stop."