Thursday, March 1, 2012

Forget about intersections. What about traffic cameras on school buses?

Back in March 2009, I wrote about Redflex Traffic Systems, an Australian company that has a worldwide business installing traffic cameras at intersections to catch people who run red lights. It turns out that a nearby city, Upland California, pulled out its Redflex traffic cameras because of a negative return on investment.

Redflex has continued to develop its technologies, and will introduce two new products in 2012:

Student Guardian™ is a photo enforcement solution designed to make school bus stops safer for children by helping police enforce laws against driving past a stopped school bus.

Halo™ – one of our greatest innovations yet – saves innocent drivers and their passengers by holding cross traffic when it senses a driver is about to run a red light.

More information about Student Guardian is provided in a Traffic Technology Today piece (apparently copied from a press release, the original of which I was unable to locate on Redflex's website).

Redflex Traffic Systems is introducing ‘Student Guardian’, which it hopes will make school bus routes safer for children. Every day in the USA, thousands of motorists break state laws by driving around stopped school buses. The new system provides schoolchildren with an extra layer of protection as they enter and exit the bus, by capturing images and video of violators who put their lives in danger. In 2011, the Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services conducted the first national survey of this dangerous activity. The study monitored stop-arm passing incidents on nearly 112,000 buses in 28 states and found that in just one day, bus drivers recorded more than 76,000 illegal passes, which equates to more than 13 million illegal maneuvers nationally in a typical school year.

The Student Guardian system has been designed to curb dangerous driving and enforce traffic laws on school bus routes. The safety camera system is installed on the front and rear driver’s-side of a school bus. It monitors traffic while the bus’ stop arm is displayed, leaving the bus driver free to focus on students. Data supporting possible violations, including high-definition video and high-resolution images of license plates and drivers, is submitted to local law enforcement agencies to determine whether a citation is warranted. The system can be operated at no cost to taxpayers, as it is fully funded by violations. Two cities in Connecticut are currently running pilot programs, which will provide guidance to other cities and school districts on the effectiveness of the system.

Karen Finley, president and CEO of Redflex, said, “The threat of injury or death is very real for the 26 million students nationwide who rely on school bus transportation. Student Guardian will serve as a constant reminder for drivers to stop behind every school bus and make sure those students are safe. I cannot think of a better use for our enforcement technologies than student safety.”

So for civil libertarians who are worried about the increasing number of cameras cropping up everywhere - there will be more of them.
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