• Drivers running bus stop paddles caught on camera

    By: Joanna Small

    Updated:

    PIERCE COUNTY, Wash. - For the first time, cameras are on the outside of school buses in Pierce County.  

    Cameras on five buses in the Bethel School District are now catching drivers who go around the flashing stop paddles.

    KIRO 7 first told you about the plan to install the cameras in August. That finally happened two weeks ago, and now they’ve been operating for a week.   

    American Traffic Solutions,the company that owns and operates the equipment, released video Wednesday of those caught violating the law between Oct. 27 and the 31. We were able to watch as car after car  went around the outstretched stop arms. Bus driver Dawn Rowell says she’s been watching that for years.    

    "I've had a car come up the side this way when I'm crossing students. I have my hand out, my horn honked, and I'm trying to stop the students,” Rowell said.  

    Now there's data to prove this is happening — in one week, cameras on the district’s buses captured 23 drivers ignoring the stop paddles.  

    “I personally don't mind it, because I think it needs to be enforced,” driver Betty Barber said.  

    But no one has been ticketed yet. When that begins in January, a ticket will run nearly $400.  

    "There is a significant stop arm-running problem here in the Bethel School District,” Charles Territo with ATS explained.  

    Not quite as significant as the district's bus drivers have seen anecdotally. In August, they told us a driver sees as many as a dozen violations a day, but ATS tells us when people know they could be caught on camera they tend to be more careful.  

    "The goal of this program is to change driver behavior,” Territo said.   

    ATS says its national data shows 99 percent of their violators only do it once. That's a relief for Rowell.    

    "I'm supposed to be their safety net, I'm supposed to get them home safe, and with cars running paddles and not paying attention, it's terrifying,” concludes Rowell.  

    ATS sends all potential violations on to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office for review, and deputies send them on to the prosecutor's office. The district keeps three quarters of the fine and ATS gets the rest.

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