STUDENT SAFETY

Wissahickon School District and Ambler Police entered into an agreement with Bus Patrol America LLC to increase the safety measures around school buses.

Bus-arm cameras approved for use in Ambler, Wissahickon School District

  • Public Safety

If you’ve ever followed a big yellow school bus in traffic, you’ve likely watched as the flashing red lights blink, alerting surrounding drivers to stop as the bus itself does so, too. Hopefully, you do just that: stop. But, because many violate this traffic code, attempting to zip around stopped buses, the local school district and its vehicles will soon be armed with measures to catch those not adhering to the signal.

Wissahickon School District and the Borough of Ambler Police Department entered into an intergovernmental agreement with Bus Patrol America LLC to increase the safety measures around school buses. The new agreement both authorizes the use of bus arm cameras, as well as gives the police the right to enforce recorded violations.

The agreement was authorized by the borough council in its recent meeting.

“It took a year-and-a-half to get this agreement to where it is today,” said Councilwoman Lisa Auerbach, a Ward 2 representative.

She noted that the final steps had taken an unusual amount of time to come back for a vote from council.

“Chief, can you weigh in on any of that?” asked Councilwoman Amy Hughes, as she delivered the public safety committee report at the Borough Council’s last meeting. “I think it was politics, but…”

Due to the high number of governmental agencies involved, there were many steps to the process, which included area municipalities, the school district, the bus companies, and the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT).

“There was a two-step process, but they tightened that up with the state because there were some problems with it,” said Ambler Police Chief Jeffrey Borkowski, adding the codes were rewritten to be more clear on what is, and is not, permitted.

Hughes said both because of her interest in safety measures and her care for topics the board votes on that impact the school district, “this is a topic I’ve been following from the school district.”

“I think it just took that long,” said Hughes of the lengthy process for the action to finally take place.

Hughes went on to answer the council's questions on the matter.

“Are all the buses for Wissahickon School District, then, going to be equipped with this or is it just with Ambler?” asked Auerbach.

Hughes said that the new plan would impact all buses, but it would only be the Ambler Borough buses that council would vote on, as council can only manage in-borough matters. She said other municipalities, such as Lower Gwynedd and Whitpain, were doing the same thing.

“It was a change to the legal code,” said Hughes. “Am I using the right lingo?”

Borkowski said that, yes, all area municipalities would need to approve and sign the new code, however “whether it includes every bus, that is a different question.”

“The intention is to have a camera on all of the buses,” said the chief.

Hughes agreed.

“Exactly, so this is safety-related,” she said, “making sure we have cameras on the arms, and we’re catching those people that are blowing past them.”

Borkowski said that, once a camera detects a violation, it will notify the police automatically.

“We’ll then verify it and sign off on it,” said the chief of any person recorded breaking traffic laws around the school buses. “Then it goes to court.” Borkowski explained it is a $25 fine for the first violation. However, the total cost of a citation tallies up to $300.

“That makes me feel better,” said Hughes, as some council members questioned increasing the amount. First offenses, as outlined by the agreement, are civil penalties that do not bring about criminal charges. The offenses are also a cause for points, insurance increases, nor become a part of a driver’s record.

The vote to enter into the agreement passed unanimously. Wissahickon School Board voted in February to approve its authorizations included in the agreement. Per the agreement’s language, Ambler Borough would have the first authority to penalize any violators, while the Pennsylvania State Police would retain secondary rights.

According to the documents, the agreement does not prohibit police from also ticketing or fining persons they witness themselves to be in violation of bus-arm stop sign usage.

author

Melissa S. Finley

Melissa is a 26-year veteran journalist who has worked for a wide variety of publications over her enjoyable career. A summa cum laude graduate of Penn State University’s College of Communications with a degree in journalism, Finley is a single mother to two teens, Seamus and Ash, her chi The Mighty Quinn, and the family’s two cats, Archimedes and Stinky. She enjoys bringing news to readers far and wide.

Monday, July 22, 2024
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