School Bus Cameras: A Whole New Way of Getting Tickets

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A big yellow school bus could be the source of your next traffic ticket. 

Officials with the School District of Palm Beach County are weighing whether to install high-def cameras on buses to nab the license plates of drivers who ignore those little stop signs that extend from the side of the vehicles. 

As the Palm Beach Post reported, the district is testing the cameras on two buses, but they're "not sending out any tickets or warnings, just taking video of cars that blow through the 'stop arm.'"

If the idea seems a tad similar to the pesky and controversial red light cameras, it's probably because the same company, American Traffic Solutions, is leading the development of school bus cameras -- though none of its bus cameras are being tested in Florida yet.  

Here's American Traffic Solutions' description of how its school bus system work:

The CrossingGuard School Bus Stop Arm Enforcement System is completely automated and requires no school bus driver intervention, allowing drivers to remain focused solely on the children.

Activated when a school bus' stop arm is extended, the system's high-resolution cameras capture both images and video of violating events, which are wirelessly uploaded to ATS' Axsis™ Violation Processing System.

Every violation image is accompanied by a detailed Violation Data Bar, indicating the violation time and date as well as the school bus' number and GPS coordinates.

All violation data are initially analyzed by experienced ATS representatives -- a final review of the evidence is conducted by law enforcement personnel, who provide the official approval or rejection of the violation. If the violation is approved by law enforcement, a citation is automatically mailed to the vehicle's registered owner.

While GPS coordinates and a violation processing system sound techie and sophisticated, the system will likely be prone to the same flaws as red light cameras and clog up traffic courts with drivers arguing that the school bus spewed out an unjust ticket. 

An NBC affiliate in Rhode Island -- where a company called SmartBus Live has deployed several school bus cameras -- reported that one driver got ticketed for passing a bus that was pulled over on break with no children inside. The report also includes drivers complaining that the pictures fail to provide adequate context, such as a woman claiming that her view of the bus' stop sign was blocked by an SUV in front her.

It's easy to write off school bus cameras as Big Brother's next venture. Unfortunately, it appears that there's a pretty significant need for them. As noted in the Palm Beach Post, the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles estimates that there are "8,900 illegal passes of school buses every day in Florida."

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