Since 1995, 11 Georgia students have died after being struck by motorists at a school bus stop. The state leads the nation in number of such fatalities.
Superintendent of Carroll County Schools Scott Cowart would like to change that, and he believes that the system’s implementation of CrossingGuard, a camera system mounted on the sides of school buses to record vehicles that pass stopped buses, will aid in the system’s efforts.
Cowart spoke at a press conference Monday morning, along with Carroll County Sheriff Terry Langley and American Traffic Solutions (ATS) Vice President of Communications Charles Territo.
ATS, an Arizona-based company that manufactures and installs traffic cameras nationwide, installed the cameras before school started earlier this month. If a vehicle passes a stopped bus, the camera captures an image of the vehicle and its license plate. That image is sent to Carroll County Sheriff’s Office, where trained deputies will decide if the violator should receive a citation.
The first violation results in a citation of $300. The second and third violations in a five-year period result in $750 and $1,000 fines, respectively.
In the first five days of the school system’s program, 28 enforceable violations were recorded. There are a total of 142 that are still up for review.
Carrollton City Schools have also implemented the camera system on its buses.
The number of motorists in the state who violate stop-arm laws has decline this year over last year, the Georgia Department of Education reported last week. However, the rate remains alarmingly high, the statement from the DOE reads.
“Data collected voluntarily by districts statewide during a one-day survey in May show that 7,349 vehicles illegally passed school buses in a total of 4,222 incidences,” the statement reads. “That’s compared to 8,102 vehicles during 4,629 incidences last year.”
State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge asked the public to pay closer attention and watch for buses’ stop signals.
“While I’m pleased we are seeing fewer incidences of stop-arm violations, it’s frightening to think we have this many drivers breaking the law and endangering our children,” he said. “Student safety should be a priority for everyone in the community, not just parents and schools.”
Jackie Coffee, the director of transportation for the county schools, echoed Barge’s statement, saying student safety is the system’s No. 1 concern.
“They are our most precious resource,” she said. “And the state of Georgia’s got a pretty bad record, with the most fatalities in the nation. We have to fix this.”
Coffee said the support for the program has been “overwhelming” and that it was a “no-brainer” to implement the cameras.
“We are trying to redirect drivers’ behaviors,” she said.
Langley said the initiative is not about generating revenue — it’s about ensuring student safety.
“This isn’t about money,” he said. “If it saves one life, it’s worth every effort we’ve made.”
Cowart said the system’s implementation has three objectives: improving safety, creating awareness and changing behavior.
“We are trying to make the community aware of these safety concerns in order to change drivers’ behavior for student safety,” he said. “We just want parents to be comfortable when they put their kids on the bus in the morning.”
Langley agreed on the power awareness has on changing public behavior.
“Awareness alone will stop some of these beforehand,” he said. “If people know they need to be more careful, they will be.”
The county and city school systems are joined by Muscogee, Cobb and Newton counties’ systems in implementing the cameras, but Territo said Carroll County Schools was the first in the state to being making inroads.
“Other school systems in the state are looking to leadership of districts like Carroll County,” he said. “They use them as a bellwether and decide if the system is something their district needs.”
Territo said the system is important as a preventive device against possible accidents.
“Just because there hasn’t been a fatality in this district doesn’t mean there’s an opportunity for one to happen every day,” he said. “So thank you for helping us save the life of children getting on and off the bus in Carroll County.”