School Buses Have Extra Eyes to Catch Law Breakers

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New technology is helping Okemos Public Schools catch drivers who fail to stop for a school bus. The state of the art surveillance video system uses 7 cameras, 4 mounted inside the bus, and 3 on the outside. The outside cameras are able to capture license plate numbers, and even recognize a driver who disobeys the red flashing lights when the bus stops. Todd Sharp, Transportation Director for Okemos Public Schools says, "I think that we're so preoccupied nowadays. Everyone is busy. Our schedules demand that we're always on the go." Lt. Greg Frenger of Meridian Township Police, "Drivers are more and more distracted by things in their vehicles."

A bond passed by voters has allowed Okemos to purchase 3 buses outfitted with the new surveillance system. It's linked to computer software that records mapping data, dates, times, and video of what's going on in and around the bus. Since the buses began rolling in January, the system has caught three drivers on video, disobeying the law. Sharp says, "The video is marked when we have a violation. We will know exactly where on the route that it took place, the time, the date, everything is recorded, within the system so that we are able to turn that over to the police and they will take it from there."

The surveillance cameras are powerful enough to record a license plate number, and in some cases, recognize the driver. Frenger said, "Even if the driver is not identified, we can issue a citation to the registered owner of that vehicle." Adds Sharp, "It takes a lot of the guesswork out of it. With having the 4 different views on our screen, we have it all right there in front of us."

Okemos plans to outfit the remaining 15 buses in its fleet with the surveillance equipment this summer. It will cost about $4,000 per bus.