Drivers warned not to ignore school bus stop signs in Pell City

New buses the Pell City school system received a year ago are equipped with cameras that can take quality video. Videos are turned over to authorities if a driver fails to stop for a bus that is loading or unloading children.

PELL CITY -- Drivers need to think twice about ignoring stop signals on school buses, because their actions could be recorded on video and turned over to authorities for prosecution.

“We don’t want anyone to go to court,” said Superintendent of Pell City Schools Dr. Michael Barber.  “We need people to not run our stop signs.”

He said school officials’ only concern is student safety.

“It’s a national issue,” Barber said. “Unfortunately, last month highlighted the problem.”

Last month, three Indiana children from one family were struck and killed by a driver who failed to stop for a school bus picking them up. Another child was seriously injured in the incident.

“A 10-year-old got hit ... in Tennessee loading on a bus,” said Shea White, the transportation director for the Pell City school system. “It is such a problem.”

She said at a minimum, there are six violations each day involving drivers who illegally pass Pell City school buses.

At Tuesday night’s Board of Education meeting, Barber held up a thick stack of papers, Alabama State Department of Education Illegal Passing Violation Reporting Forms. The forms were from a three-month period.

White said the individual forms are sent to the Pell City Police Department or the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, if the violation took place outside the city limits.

White said new school buses the system secured last November are loaded with security cameras able to not only provide videos of passing violations, but are also of such quality that even license plate numbers are clearly visible.

Barber said this is not a money-making scheme for the schools.

“We get nothing from this,” Barber said. “We get no money from this.”

In fact, he said, it costs the school board because employees have to go through videos to find the violations.

Pell City police Chief Paul Irwin said his department writes about 10 citations each month from videos taken by bus cameras.

“I think the most we’ve written in a month is about 18,” he said. “The owner or the person who was driving usually just comes in and pays.”

He said it can cost violators more than $200 with court costs.

“It also puts a lot of points on your driving record,” Irwin said.

He said drivers need to slow down when they see a school bus. When drivers see yellow flashing lights on the bus, they need to prepare to stop.

Irwin said the department is fair in reviewing video and only issues citations when there is an unquestionable traffic violation.

He said the most common reason for someone failing to properly stop is because the driver was not paying attention.

Irwin said the Police Department has a good instructional video about stopping when school buses are loading and unloading students. The video is normally posted on the department’s Facebook page at the start of school and in January.