Rockingham County, VA -- School bus drivers say kids' lives are in danger. One driver says he has seen 30 cars, in just a month, illegally passing his stopped bus as lights flash, and kids try to cross what motorists are turning into treacherous roads.
What those motorists may not know is that their dangerous choice to run the lights can now be caught on camera.
Rockingham County Public School officials say enough is enough, and now police are stepping in.
"Just think if it was your child or your grandchild, someone special to you. You wouldn't want them to be hit by a car," shared Dee Dee Shoemaker, a school bus driver for Rockingham County Schools.
That's what she says she would say to drivers who illegally pass her bus stopped for kids.
She's been driving school buses for 20 years and says it happens a lot.
“It's really scary, especially if you have a student standing, waiting to cross the road and a car runs past. If that student would've stepped out, we train them not to step out, but if they would have, the car would've hit them,” Shoemaker continued.
That's why Phil Judd, the director of transportation for Rockingham County Public Schools, said the new cameras are so important.
“It allows law enforcement to enforce this law a lot more effectively,” explained Judd.
It's a pretty simple process. When the bus comes to a stop, the stop sign flips out. You'll see red lights start flashing. That means that cars have to stop, but it also means that cameras on the side of the bus are rolling. If you go around the side of the bus, you're going to get caught from the back, and you're going to get caught from the front.
From there, a report including images of your vehicle is sent to the Rockingham County Sheriff's Office.
"It's not something that we're trying to say 'we got you,'" continued Judd. He added that it's about keeping kids safe.
The fine for illegally passing a school bus in Virginia is $250. If you hit a child crossing in front of a stopped bus, you could be looking at prison.
It's that threat of punishment that Shoemakers hopes will keep drivers in line the next time she hits the road.
"I think it's a great thing. It keeps our children a lot safer," concluded Shoemaker.
The Rockingham County cameras are being installed with Redflex Student Guardian Technology at no cost to local tax payers. Judd says the fines paid by drivers for passing buses are what pay for the new cameras.
Judd also says as of the beginning of this year, three cameras are in use. They plan to up that to 10 total by the end of this year.
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