State Politics

Cameras could catch drivers passing school buses – and lead to a hefty fine

Students load a bus at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh in 2015.
Students load a bus at Hunter Elementary School in Raleigh in 2015.

People who illegally pass a stopped school bus could get a ticket in the mail under a new camera system, an option schools will have under a bill headed to Gov. Roy Cooper.

Similar to red light cameras, Senate Bill 55 would allow school districts to install cameras on buses or contract with a company that offers the service. Drivers caught on camera illegally passing a bus would owe a fine of $400 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense and $1,000 on the third offense. They could appeal the ticket in court.

The bill passed the House Thursday night in a 74-33 vote, after passing the Senate months ago. Several legislators opposed the measure, arguing that the process could infringe on the rights of drivers, because the civil penalty process differs from what happens when a law enforcement officer pulls over a driver for passing a bus.

“If the evidence is not sufficient enough to support prosecution, you put it through this other way that is calling for a lesser standard,” said Rep. John Faircloth, a High Point Republican. “This is a dangerous situation, I think.”

But supporters of the bill argued that the increased enforcement will improve safety for kids getting on and off school buses.

“When you have video evidence, there’s no need to confront your accuser,” said Rep. Darren Jackson, a Knightdale Democrat. “You can see it on video. These things have the potential to save children's lives. You can appeal it if you really want to.”

Proceeds will go to school districts, and Rep. Elmer Floyd, a Fayetteville Democrat, questioned the motives behind the bill. “We talk about safety, but it’s a cash cow bill,” he said.

Colin Campbell: 919-829-4698, @RaleighReporter