By Hannah Caver, Staff Writer
LEEDS — The Leeds Police Department has started to crack down on illegal school bus passing.
According to Corporal Dwaine Hagan, every school bus now has cameras that are activated each time the engine is started. In addition, the cameras will begin recording when the stop alarms art out and capture if anyone comes past whenever they drop off and pick up.
Hagan heads up the School Resource Officer (SRO) program and works with the school district’s transportation department to identify license plates from vehicles breaking the law.
“When the sign comes out, if somebody runs it, the bus driver makes a notation of the time, and then it comes to the transportation director who will pull the videos, and then he forwards those to me,” Hagan said.
In the past, bus drivers would have to watch the kids, watch the vehicles around them, remember car tags, fill out a report, and forward them to the SRO. However, Hagan said it is almost impossible to do while driving a bus full of children.
Hagan explained they had received over 70 violations from August September into October. He said that they don’t issue citations but instead will send you a court summons. January 2021 marked the first month that Leeds began issuing summons, and court summons fines could cost from $500 to $700.
“You got this very large yellow bus with a lot of flashing lights,” Hagan said. “If you’re not paying attention to that, how will you pay attention to the little kids getting off? Some of them just run.”
Hagan said it’s not just on the roadways where drivers ignore the stop alarms; it happens at the high school as well.
“Mostly the mornings when you’re unloading and the arms out, these parents will come up and drop their kids off,” Hagan said. “Then just drive right past stop arms. It’s like it doesn’t count to them if it’s on school property, but its state law is anywhere the bus is, private property or the roadway, you have to stop.”
Hagan explained that the importance of these cameras is to keep the children who ride the bus safe because it only takes one child to run across the road in front of a vehicle, and then everything changes. Hagan said the summons is not to punish people; it’s to correct bad behavior.
“We’re just trying to make a difference; it’s about the kids,” Hagan said. “We’re trying to protect people’s children.”