HARRISBURG, PA – The Pennsylvania Senate today (June 24) unanimously passed measures designed to strengthen and improve the state’s School Bus Stop Arm Camera Law, helping to further ensure the safety and protection of the Commonwealth’s children as they travel to and from school, according to Senators Pat Browne (R-16) and Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Browne and Bartolotta worked jointly on an amendment to House Bill 364, which contained important new provisions intended to build upon the legislature’s previous School Bus Camera Law (Act 159 of 2018). That legislation – prime sponsored by Senator Browne – addressed the serious safety issues created by motorists illegally passing stopped school buses when the safety lights and arm bar had been deployed.
“I am immensely proud of the work that the legislature has done to create a safer environment for students all across the Commonwealth,” Senator Browne said. “After the enactment of Act 159, it became evident that more needed to be done to ensure the enforcement of this critical school safety law. Motorist’s lack of understanding or flagrant disregard for this law puts students’ lives at risk and we must do everything in our power to enforce this law.”
Limited Stop Arm Camera Pilot Programs were recently instituted in select school districts across the state, including the Allentown School District (Browne’s district) and Trinity Area School District (Bartolotta’s). Data collected by the studies showed that, despite Act 159’s enactment, an epidemic of motorists are still violating the state’s stop arm law. The Allentown Pilot Program alone logged 205 violations over a nearly four-month period.
The pilot programs were conducted by Bus Patrol™, a leading stop arm camera and school bus safety company.
“Student safety needs to be one of our top priorities, as we owe it to our children to make sure we provide a safe environment when they are getting on and off the school bus. The pilot programs conducted in our senatorial districts clearly and unfortunately further indicated that drivers are still not adhering to the law and that more must be done to encourage school districts to take advantage of this technology,” Senator Bartolotta said. “I was pleased to collaborate with Senator Browne on these amendments to ensure Pennsylvania’s school children are not continually jeopardized by the reckless actions of dangerous and irresponsible drivers.”
Following the review of the pilot programs, Browne and Bartolotta worked collaboratively to craft amendments to the statute that would strengthen the enforcement of the current law and increase the number of buses in districts across the Commonwealth equipped with stop arm cameras. The bill provides a structure, utilized widely in other states, for Stop Arm Camera companies to enter into contracts with school districts and local police to provide their services free-of-charge in exchange for part of the revenue generated by the fine. A $300 civil penalty is assessed to motorists violating the state’s School Bus Stop Arm Camera law caught by a stop arm camera. In addition, funds from each fine are also allocated to the participating local police department, to defray costs of implementing the program, and the state’s School Bus Safety Grant Program, designed to educate motorists and bring greater public awareness to this safety issue.
Local police departments review evidence packages created by the stop arm cameras and certify that a violation has taken place before a notice of violation is sent to the motorist. Privacy provisions are included to protect the identity of the motorist and the public.
In the past, the School Bus Passing Law has been notoriously hard to enforce, as school bus drivers have had to quickly collect pertinent detailed information about the incident, while performing their duties, or law enforcement had to catch a motorist committing a violation.
The bill has been sent to the House of Representatives for consideration.