Located on the eastern border of Georgia, Burke County Public Schools serves approximately 4,200 students at eight different institutions.
AJ Huddleston is the Assistant Transportation Director at Burke County. He is jointly responsible for maintaining the school buses in the district, which operate a total of 85 routes, taking students to and from school each day.
Student safety is and always has been a priority for the transportation department, and AJ ensures that children are protected as much as possible both inside and outside the school gates.
School bus drivers in the county were reporting a scary number of motorists illegally passing their stopped school buses and putting children at risk as they stepped on and off the bus. According to AJ, drivers were contacting the transportation department on a daily basis to report dangerous violations.
In response to concerns, Burke County decided to partner with BusPatrol to change driver behavior and reduce the number of stop-arm violations. BusPatrol conducted an initial pilot program to assess the problem. Speaking about the pilot, AJ said: “The results from the pilot confirmed our drivers’ daily reports. As well as this, the results were informative enough to convince our board members that the program was necessary to ensure and improve the safety of students and staff.”
A no-cost solution
Before partnering with BusPatrol, Burke County had explored implementing its own stop-arm camera system. However, the school district had experienced difficulties funding the equipment and finding the time to monitor the footage. AJ explained: “Money was a barrier. We did have cameras in place, but we didn’t have the time to watch every tape daily to catch the stop-arm violations.”
BusPatrol was able to help Burke County overcome this challenge by offering an automated school bus arm camera solution at zero cost to the school district, county, or municipality. The total value of the stop-arm software deployed was $120,000. This was installed at no cost to the community or school. In fact, the program is violator funded, meaning that the money from citations is used to fund the installation and maintenance of the stop-arm enforcement technology.
As well as this, the automated system means that school officials and law enforcement officers can manage any extra work or responsibility involved with enforcement.
A safer future
Has the program been effective? AJ is confident that the program is having a positive impact on driver behavior in the district. He said: “So far the program has been great. We have seen a drastic decrease in stop-arm violations in the area. (…) Buses equipped with stop-arm cameras have shown a great reduction in violations in target areas.
“Our quarterly reports from BusPatrol show a decrease in violations and citations issued in those areas.”
School bus drivers are also pleased with the program. AJ explained: “Bus drivers are happy. They can focus more on the road and safety of students instead of trying to capture tag info and vehicle description of violators.”
As a closing note, he recommended the program to other transportation directors, saying: “We would recommend BusPatrol to other transportation directors. Student safety should be the most important factor for any school district. The program is a guaranteed opportunity to save lives and hold drivers accountable for their actions.”
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