LEEDS, Ala. (WIAT) — Police in Leeds continue to deal with an increasing number of drivers illegally passing school buses this year.
According to officers, there have been about 70 violations this year. Leeds City Schools began installing cameras on buses to catch motorists who do not stop.
“A lot of people don’t understand the issue and how bad it is and how dangerous it is,” said LPD Cpl. Dwaine Hagan.
Hagan heads up the School Resource Officer program and works with the school district’s transportation department to identify license plates from vehicles breaking the law.
“If they can’t see the big yellow bus with all the flashing lights, they’re not going to be able to see the kids and we have just been so blessed not to have a child hurt yet and we are trying to prevent that from happening,” Hagan said.
Hagan said a majority of violations have occurred on two-lane highways like Alabama Highway 119 and U.S. 78.
“These are children. It is 7:30, 7:00 in the morning. They’re not paying a bit of attention to what’s going on around. You have to be the adult here,” said Hagan.
A court summons is issued to the owner of the vehicle and sent in the mail. Between fines and court costs, Hagan estimated a ticket can cost between $500 and $700.
“It is frustrating for the driver because that is a driver’s worst nightmare, to have a kid hit by a car and it is just happening too regularly,” said Lee Gibson, the director of Leeds City Schools’ Transportation Department.
Gibson said bus drivers give motorists plenty of warning ahead of a stop, beginning with flashing amber lights.
“That’s our flashing lights. As a driver approaching or from behind, that should be my key that this bus is about to do something,” Gibson said.
After the amber caution lights, drivers will check traffic before safely initiating a stop. Both a cross arm and a flashing stop sign are extended during a stop.
Motorists traveling in either direction are then required to stop on a two-lane highway. Cameras record and capture images of any vehicles that pass during the stop.
“I have a little SD card that I pull off the bus. That’s got the video and I send it to officer Hagan,” said Gibson.
Gibson said new technology, like backup cameras and cameras that offer a 360-degree view, have aided in bus safety.