Metro School Buses Still Without Cameras

FOX 5 I-Team

Metro School Buses Still Without Cameras

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CLAYTON COUNTY, Ga. -

It's against the law to pass a school bus loading or unloading children, but an I-Team investigation revealed it's still a very dangerous problem that happens every day.

In response, many school districts have attached cameras to catch drivers who just whiz by the flashing red stop arm. But not all metro counties use these cameras yet.

Clayton County does. Bus driver Tamika Rawls has watched vehicles passing buses - nearly missing children - when they load and unload at the bus stop. It's against the law, but that doesn't always seem to matter.

"A lot of people do it on a regular basis until they see the ticket," said Tamika Rawls.

She can thank mom, Sherri Lewis, for that. The Cobb County mother never thought she'd be the one to take up a cause.

"Oh, no. Definitely didn't feel like that mom who would take up a cause."

Fed up and frightened after 5-year-old Karla Campos was killed in 2009 walking off a school bus, Ms. Lewis pushed lawmakers to make it easier to charge drivers. The first offense is now a $300 fine. A second - $750.

She said, "Let's create that deterrent. Everyone tells their friends -- no one passes school buses in Georgia, and hopefully, the kiddos are safer.

And stats back her up. School districts are reporting that there are few repeat offenders. But not all school districts have these cameras yet. Ten metro districts do, but some of the big ones don't.

Video from a pilot study in Gwinnett showed the state's largest school district had a real problem. It highlighted vehicle after vehicle passing a stopped bus. They hope to have cameras on board by fall. Atlanta plans to install them, too, but it doesn't have a timeline yet. DeKalb and Fulton are still studying the issue.

But these same four school districts do participate in a national effort to count once a year stop arm violations. Local bus drivers volunteer to count - nothing official, just by watching - just how many folks they see ignore a stopped bus in a single day. Last year, Atlanta, DeKalb, Fulton and Gwinnett tallied 3,359 drivers blowing by the stop arm all in one day.

In the past five years, four children in Georgia have died at bus stops. Too many. Cameras on buses are making a difference, but Sherri Lewis' awareness group called "Operation Stop Arm" said parents also need to change bad bus stop behavior.

"Racing your child up in a car to the bus stop and telling them to run to the bus is so dangerous," she said recalling watching this. "You do see that happen."

Admittedly, the rules about when to stop on four-lane highways are confusing. "Operation Stop Arm" has a great diagram that you should check out.

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