Eastside News

Mercer Island gets stop arm cameras on school buses

MERCER ISLAND, Wash. — If you see a school bus on Mercer Island, there may be extra eyes watching you.

The district has outfitted several buses with cameras to catch people who run through school bus stop signs.

School bus drivers said they have seen several drivers run their stop signs every day.

They would do their best to jot down the model of the car and license plate number, but their top focus is getting students to and from school.

They needed a more effective way to stop those drivers and opted for several mounted cameras on the bus that are triggered when someone illegally drives past the stop arm.

Just before the school year started, five buses were outfitted with the cameras. Still photos are taken of the car, driver and the license plate.

There’s also a video camera that records when a driver runs through the stop arm, so it will be difficult to fight the infraction and $394 ticket.

Mercer Island police said the cameras will be a lot more effective than officers.

“We're not able to see a lot of violations. When you put a police car on the street where a bus is going by, most people are going to stop and slow down. They’re not going to run the paddles by the police car. They're just not going to do it,” said David Jokinen with Mercer Island police.

The Highline School District and the Bethel School District also have bus camera systems.

The Bethel School District said they have had success with their cameras and estimate there were more than 100 violations per day prior to the cameras being installed.

In the year and a half since they’ve had the cameras, 833 drivers have been cited, which works out to roughly three violations per day.

Mercer Island is hoping for a similar decline in violations.