By Interim Superintendent Van Ayres
Every day, 90,000 Hillsborough County Public Schools students rely on our school buses to get them safely to and from school. I am proud to announce that our school district is partnering with BusPatrol and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office to establish the first-in-the-state school bus camera safety program.
Last month kicked off the installation of this state-of-the-art camera technology on our 1,100 school buses. The cameras will capture a photo and video of vehicles if drivers illegally pass school buses when the stop arm is extended and lights are flashing.
Senate Bill 766 — Enforcement of School Bus Passing Infractions was introduced by Senator Danny Burgess in the 2023 legislative session and signed into law on May 31. This new law allows school districts to install infraction detection systems on school buses. The system will take images of the license plate, documenting when a vehicle violates the law. The cameras cannot be used for any other purposes.
Recent studies of illegal passing in our state revealed that school buses are illegally passed over three times per bus per day. This is unacceptable. The issue is that law enforcement can’t be everywhere, so it can be a challenge to catch drivers illegally passing stopped buses. We intend to change that by putting cameras on every single one of our buses, ensuring that every child, without exception, is protected during their daily commute.
The program will be preceded by an extensive 30-day public awareness campaign beginning in January 2024 to ensure that everyone is aware of the changes in enforcement. Beginning in February 2024, the program will go into effect. The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office will certify each violation before sending a citation out. A $200 citation would then be sent to whomever the vehicle is registered.
Our focus here is not on ticketing drivers, but it’s to send a message to all drivers that when you see a school bus, slow down and do not pass when the stop arm is extended and the red lights are flashing.
We want parents to have peace of mind, knowing their children are safe on their daily drive to and from school on the bus.