Charleston County school bus drivers say, they see people illegally passing their stopped buses on a daily basis, but the Charleston County School District reports only 14 since the start of the school year. The highway patrol says CCSD has only sent them 16 reports in the last three years, and bus drivers say the reports can be heard on their radios every day across the county.
The State Department of Education conducted a survey in 25 of the state’s 81 school districts last June. On that one day, bus drivers reported 388 violations. That is more than 15 violations per district, and close to the dozen or so each day that Berkeley County School District Director of Transportation Wes Fleming says he say drivers report in his district.
For that reason, Fleming is in the process of testing cameras mounted on the outside of buses to capture video of drivers who illegally pass those buses, putting children at risk.
We rode along with Sgt. Bob Beres of the South Carolina Highway Patrol and he spoke to drivers, parents, and a student who says stop arm violations occur on a regular basis.
“We report it, report it, report it, it don’t do nothing, I can’t catch all those cars [license numbers],” said one bus driver. “You can hear bus drivers on the radio all day reporting their stop arm being run.”
“They just zoom through,” said another driver.
“Sometimes they just don’t want to wait for the bus,” said the mother of a student with special needs who talked with us off-camera while waiting for a bus on Rifle Range Road in Mount Pleasant. “It’s scary.”
CCSD sent us this statement in response to our findings:
“The Charleston County School District and Durham School Services are working together to address stop arm violations. The technology for cameras to be placed on the stop arm of a school bus is available, however for a person to be charged with the violation, state law requires a visual (photo) of the driver. The technology we have reviewed does not provide a clear picture; therefore it would not be prudent to invest in the cameras until that is rectified. Student safety is our top priority and we will continue to assess the technology as well as working with the State Highway Patrol, and other law enforcement agencies, to address this issue. Since the beginning of the school year 14 violations have been reported in Charleston County.”
The law the statement makes reference to is S.C. Code 56-5-2770 & 56-5-2773.
State troopers say the camera systems work, and give them plenty of information to build a case and prosecute offenders. In cases where the driver is not visible on the video, officers say they would treat it as a hit-and-run investigation and determine who was behind the wheel. When they do, it’s $1,067.60 fine (including court costs), and six points on your license.
For the record, Dorchester District II officials are not considering the cameras either, saying there is no money available to add those cameras.
Camera companies, and transportation directors across the state who are looking into purchasing them say they average $1500 – $3000 per bus when adding on to existing interior camera systems.