Kentucky Bill HB 221 – An Act Related to School Bus Safety

Bill No.:
HB 221
Bill Location:
Bill Title:

An Act Related to School Bus Safety

Full Bill Text ›
NMA Recommendation:

UPDATE March 1, 2022: Died in Committee.

House Bill 221 has passed the House and is pending in the Senate Rules Committee. If enacted it would allow local school districts to install and operate school bus arm cameras.

The NMA is opposed to the bill because it would permit school buses to be equipped with an automated enforcement camera. School bus stop-arm cameras are another of the photo-based traffic enforcement “solutions” looking for a problem. These systems employ cameras mounted on the exterior of school buses to record alleged passing violations of stopped school buses that are loading or unloading children. Supporters play upon the strong emotions elicited by the prospects of school children put at risk by negligent motorists, and they imply the cameras will save countless lives. The truth is far different. For more information, go here.

School transportation is remarkably safe

According to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report reviewed as recently as December 2017, children are eight times safer riding in school buses than they are in passenger vehicles despite the fact that the United States’ 450,000 public school buses travel more than 4.3 billion miles annually to transport 23.5 million children to and from school.

School transportation fatalities are rare

Also according to NHTSA, between 2004 and 2013, there were 1,344 fatalities related to school transportation including vehicle occupants as well as pedestrians and bicyclists. That accounted for just 0.40 percent of the total number of annual traffic fatalities across the United States during the ten-year period in question.

Most school-age pedestrian fatalities are caused by the school bus

Of those 134 (on average) annual fatalities countrywide, NHTSA reports that approximately 12 were school-age pedestrians (18 and younger), the population that school bus cameras are intended to protect.  Furthermore, two-thirds of those fatalities were caused by the school bus or a vehicle acting as the school bus. Therefore each state had, on average, one child fatality approximately every 4 years that was caused by a vehicle passing a school bus. In California, for example, there have been no fatalities since 2001 related to motorists illegally passing school buses.

Cameras cannot stop distracted drivers

Cameras cannot deter drivers who pose the greatest risk. These include drivers who are inattentive, impaired, or responding to an emergency. Likewise, some drivers will misjudge stopping distances in bad weather and slide in the danger area, even when they see the warning flashers. Ticketing drivers by camera after the fact cannot stop these incidents from occurring.

The data are clear: Bus driver training, along with awareness training in and around school buses for students, are the most important factors in preventing school bus fatalities. Until lawmakers and administrators address these issues, bringing private camera vendors into traffic enforcement makes the process susceptible to profiteering when the focus should remain on optimizing children’s safety.

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