As we come to the close of the great school bus camera charade, we are left to wonder if this ever had anything to do with the safety of kids getting off school buses in town. Last week the District 91 school board wisely disassociated itself from the village council’s self-interest in installing the unproven cameras either as a new source of revenue or to please a decent-sized donor to the political fund of two council members and the mayor.
From the start, the school district said it wanted no part of the revenues potentially raised by ticketing drivers who passed stopped school buses. If there was a safety problem and the cameras could be proven to improve safety the schools said they would consider joining the village government in installing the RedSpeed Illinois, LLC cameras.
Now we wondered at the very beginning of this odd discussion if the police department perceived a dangerous problem and so we asked the police chief how many tickets the department had issued to crackdown on bus-passing drivers. Initially he couldn’t tell us because he hadn’t checked. And later we were told three tickets had been issued in the previous year. Clearly not a problem that had made its way to the top of the department’s safety concerns.
But the school superintendent took it upon himself to ask his bus drivers if this was a problem. Turns out it is a serious issue at one school, Grant-White, where a lot of drivers ignore the stop sign and drive around the school bus. So the superintendent asked the police department for some help in monitoring that specific situation to both write tickets and to determine possible solutions. Turns out the police department says it is too busy in the morning to write tickets to correct the problem. Very odd.
Finally the issue went back to the school board last week for a final review. That’s when Eric Connor, a school board member, said he had studied the data provided by RedSpeed in an effort to discover if installing the cameras had the desired effect and, over time, taught drivers not to pass stopped school buses. Connor said that the data showed that ticket revenue stayed steady from the cameras over months and years. His conclusion is the cameras can’t be much of a deterrent if drivers are never deterred.
His conclusion, the school board’s conclusion and our conclusion is that school bus cameras are just the latest technology discovered as a source for dinging motorists not for protecting our school kids. Now if motorists really are passing school buses every day at Grant-White and Village Commissioner Tom Mannix actually is interested in protecting children, then we’ll look forward to his quizzing of the police chief at the next council meeting about when he’s going to post a patrol car there on Randolph.