School board applies brake to bus cameras

Contract tabled until February meeting

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By Jean Lotus

Editor

The Forest Park Elementary School District 91 board will take another look at a contract to install traffic violation cameras on school bus stop-arms at their February meeting, after the board tabled the discussion of a contract with RedSpeed Illinois LLC on Tuesday night.

Board members were given data they had asked for since October: a report collected from bus drivers of how many cars drove around the stopped school buses with the stop-arm extended.

"I'm glad we have these numbers," said Eric Connor, who earlier said he would be inclined to vote against the contract unless hard data was submitted.

Even though Forest Park police wrote six tickets in 2013 to motorists who illegally passed a school bus, a snapshot of a week showed the problem is much more significant.

According to data submitted to the board, bus drivers reported 51 stop-arm violations within one week. The data showed the problem was significantly higher at three of the five schools that reported stop-arm violations.

Betsy Ross and Garfield schools did not report any violations. Bus drivers at Grant-White School reported a total of 44 violations before school between 7:20 and 7:45 a.m. Thirteen violations were reported around 3 p.m.

Field Stevenson/Forest Park Middle School reported an average of two or three violations in the morning and one or two in the afternoon.

"These seem to be concentrated at Grant-White," said board member Sean Blaylock.

The district runs two bus routes per day between north- and south-side schools. An additional bus is used for residential pickup of special education students.

Parent Teri Blain spoke in favor of the cameras. She said a special education student on her block was likely to run into the road, and she had seen cars passing the school bus, even driving into the oncoming traffic lane. She said the crossing guard had taken to standing in the middle of the street during the child's pickup and drop off.

"Even then, they try to pass her and run her over," Blain said.

Other teachers in the audience said they had observed children using the stop-arm to cross in the middle of the street near Field-Stevenson and Forest Park Middle School.

Drivers were so reckless that a teacher and the former Principal Robert Giovannoni had to stand in the street to calm drivers.

"Bob G. almost got killed, not once, but twice," said a teacher.

Board member Heather Cianciolo said she favored an "education campaign" to stop drivers from zipping past. According to Cianciolo's research, stop-arm violations were reduced when buses had multiple stop arms and when buses had flashing headlights. She also said police stings also had a deterrent effect.

According to the contract, citations are examined by RedSpeed staff and then sent to village police to determine if a violation has taken place. The driver receives a violation ticket within two weeks, said Greg Zito, RedSpeed's sales representative. He said it had been illegal to pass a stopped school bus with extended stop-arm since 1967.

But Cianciolo said she worried the 14-day gap between the violation and the ticket was too long.

"I'm wondering if the gap time is not giving the lesson," she said.

Board member Rafael Rosa said the technology is so new that there are no official studies showing the effects of the stop-arm cameras on driver behavior. The federal government requested proposals for a study in December, he said.

Connor said data showed it took about three years for red-light cameras to sink in to the collective psyche of Illinois drivers, and even though T-bone red-light accidents had been averted, rear-end collisions had risen after red-light cameras were installed nationwide.

RedSpeed has provided red-light cameras for some busy Forest Park intersections such as Harlem Avenue and Roosevelt Road since 2007.

Board member Michael O'Connor said he was waiting for answers from inquiries he made to the director of transportation for the Illinois State Board of Education.

"I'd like to wait to hear from her if this is about safety issue or just a money-maker," O'Connor said.

"We need to be talking about things we can do that aren't punitive, but preventative," Rosa said.

Blaylock agreed.

"This is a vendor's solution to provide a fine to those who have an infraction, but that's not safety," he said.

Connor said he thought police ought to be patrolling the east-west thoroughfare of Randolph Street, where buses stop at Grant-White school.

"If it's a children's safety issue, it's a police issue," Connor said.

Contact:
Email: jlotus@forestparkreview.com Twitter: @FP_Review

Reader Comments

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Bill D  

Posted: January 15th, 2014 10:37 AM

Not sure that camera tickets won't stand up in court. But they do not go on a driver's record. IMO, if a licensed driver is so dismissive of a law protecting children's safety, they deserve to have to appear before a judge and pay a fine if convicted. If they do it a second time, it should go on their record with the Secretary of State. The only way to do that is to have a police officer see them commit a violation, and write a citation. Put the expense for enforcement on the violators.

jerry from forest park  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 1:02 PM

Observer, I guess not since the private companies are operating. Also there is no ticket involved just a fine and I am not sure they can make you pay. Don't you think the authorities would keep this in house and not share the money if they could?

Observer  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 10:17 AM

@ Jerry wouldn't the same argument in the class action against the state be used against private companies?

jerry from forest parks  

Posted: January 13th, 2014 8:06 AM

Observer, good question, I believe partly because your not law enforement. I know the state stopped using camera's in construction zones that took pictures of your face and plates so you couldn't say it wasn't me. There was a class action suit I believe. That why these red light camera's are hendled by priviate companies..

Observer  

Posted: January 12th, 2014 5:32 PM

@ Jerry Why would it not stand up in court?

jerry from forest park  

Posted: January 12th, 2014 5:14 PM

Louise, while this is a good idea it would not stand up in court. If you had a video camera and got them from the front mabye, but I doubt it.

Louise Engert from Forest Park  

Posted: January 12th, 2014 4:26 PM

I feel that the camera will only catch people after they have already violated the stop arm on the bus-not prevent the violation. Someone standing near the bus with a camera could pick up the same license plate and they could be caught sooner-if not immediately if that someone is a police officer parked in front of the bus or behind it as needed. Catch them, fine them. Stopping them may cause them to be late to work, but may save a life,

Bill D  

Posted: January 11th, 2014 12:02 PM

This isn't rocket science. Place a squad car at the high incident corner. Stop the violators. Write tickets. Collect fines, and sent the offending idiots to traffic school for four hours at their expense. Repeat as many times as needed. If this is such a serious safety, it merits a directed and focused response from our law enforcement.

Teri Blain from Forest Park  

Posted: January 10th, 2014 4:20 PM

To clarify-- it is not my child who is autistic boards the school bus at my corner. There are cars who frequently attempt to go around her bus and violate the stop arm on that bus. The child is my neighbor's little girl. My daughter (a different child)was crossing the street at the same corner recently when one such violation occurred, and the crossing guard had to step out into the intersection to ensure that my daughter was able to safely cross.

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