By on March 16, 2010

Faced with a $120 million budget deficit, West Virginia lawmakers are turning to school buses to bring in desperately needed revenue. The House of Delegates voted 98-0 Saturday to give final approval to House Bill 4223 which allows county school boards to deploy buses to issue $500 automated tickets. The proposal becomes law with the signature of Governor Joe Manchin (D).

“Every county board of education is hereby authorized to mount a camera on any school bus for the purpose of enforcing this section or for any other lawful purpose,” House Bill 4223 states.

Private companies have been traveling to school boards around the country offering to install the cameras at no cost. The company would then issue tickets, collect on the fines and deposit a significant cut of the profits into the school board’s bank account with no work required on the school’s part. The Italian firm Elsag, for example, ran a test of the system in New York state last year. West Virginia’s law, however, would require photographing the driver when issuing the citations. For the first ticket, a thirty-day license suspension is mandatory, with a judge having discretion to impose a six-month jail sentence. After a third ticket is mailed, jail time is mandatory. Arizona currently is the only state that jails vehicle owners based solely on the evidence provided by a ticket camera.

Passage of the school bus legislation represents a significant win for photo enforcement lobbyists who snuck the measure through the legislature with very little public scrutiny. Copies of the Senate-amended version of the bill were not made available on the legislature’s website.

In 2006, state lawmakers had enacted one of the country’s toughest bans on all forms of photo enforcement which was enacted before any vendor had attempted to sell cameras in the state. We asked the six primary sponsors of the photo ticketing ban why they would change their position and vote for the school bus cameras.

“I did support the original legislation in 2006 for two primary reasons,” Delegate Bob Beach (D-Monongalia) said in an email. “First, many law enforcement officers opposed the idea fearing job loses. Secondly, many felt technology needed improved to be effective and limit challenges in the court. Today, law enforcement in West Virginia see the technology as a benefit.”

Delegate Randy Swartzmiller (D-Hancock) said he would look into the issue. The other delegates did not respond by press time.

A copy of the legislation, as passed by the House and Senate, is available in a 160k PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File House Bill 4223 (West Virginia Legislature, 3/16/2010)


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14 Comments on “West Virginia To Turn School Buses Into Ticket Machines...”

  • avatar

    This article is very confusing

    1st I read the title and thought it was about charging students to travel on the bus?

    Then I read the article and concluded it was something about fining bus driver? -confused how this would make money I then read the attached link about New york and only then did i understand it was to fine drivers of other vehicles who don’t stop when the bus stopped

  • avatar
    Dave Skinner

    I’m assuming the school buses will issue tickets to drivers who pass school buses with flashing red lights. If so, West Virginia may see a brief spike in revenue, but once the ($500) word gets out, NO ONE will pass a bus with flashing lights. POOF! Revenue gone.

  • avatar

    I’m with the others, this article is a combination of confusion and bafflement with a pinch of legaleese for flavor. Who gets the tickets? Since when does the school department enforce traffic law? WTH??

  • avatar

    This measure says a lot about priorities. The law to keep vehicles from passing a stopped bus was meant to protect children. So they weren’t interested in installing these systems for the protection of children, but they are interested now that it might be a money maker. Sad.

  • avatar

    “Delegate Randy Swartzmiller (D-Hancock) said he would look into the issue.”

    He doesn’t know why he voted against it before he voted for it?

    “‘I did support the original legislation in 2006 for two primary reasons,’ Delegate Bob Beach (D-Monongalia) said in an email. ‘First, many law enforcement officers opposed the idea fearing job loses. Secondly, many felt technology needed improved to be effective and limit challenges in the court. Today, law enforcement in West Virginia see the technology as a benefit.\'”

    Translation: The Peace Officers union is a very large and powerful union, and I do what they tell me to do.

    So, they take away your driver’s license and throw you in jail for passing a stopped school bus in West Virginia. Sounds like you would be better off driving down the road drunk while having relations with a minor who is your cousin.

  • avatar

    Strangely enough, had this system been in place back in 1997, a friend of mine would have been proven innocent of passing a bus.

    Backstory: I come from a small town in WV that is known as the most conservative county in the state. The population is 97.4% white and the median income is $32,000 for a family. The only hospital in the county is in the town, so that 2.6% that isn’t white is largely made up of the families of doctors. There was quite a lot of tension based on the generally low income whites and the higher income foreigners.

    Anyway, someone in an unknown model vehicle passed a school bus near the school. One student on the bus swore he knew what car it was and who was driving. Initially, he accused a foreign doctor driving a blue 96ish Outback. When the doctor was able to show that he was seeing a patient during that time, the accusation changed to his son in the Outback. The doctor confirmed that the son was not allowed to drive the Outback per insurance policy and the son had his own car anyway. The story was then changed to the son driving a gray 198X Mazda 626. Since the son was in school that day, there was no way to prove that he didn’t do it. We knew that the accuser hated my friend because my friend was an athiest. The inconsistancies of the story didn’t prevent the jury from finding my friend guilty.

    Not that I support these bus cameras, but I find it ironic that a friend could have kept a clean record instead of being saddled w/ a wrongful accusation had cameras been in place.

  • avatar

    For the record, though I see this as indicative of a slippery slope philosophy (what says they can’t use government-owned buses as mobile speed/red light camera platforms after the tech is installed?), I see this as actually a positive in that passing a school bus letting off children is potentially very dangerous. I see it happen quite regularly (in WV), and cannot remember the law ever actually having been articulated during driver training/licensing tests (though I could be wrong).

    That said, however, and though I do not have the numbers at my disposal, I also don’t recall this ever being a particularly news-worthy or common situation in which a child is actually injured/killed in this state. So will it really do anything other than the very temporary increase in fine revenue?

    Very telling that the delegates from Mon (my current place of residence) and Hancock have waffled on it for safety’s sake, but are more than happy to sign on for revenue’s sake.

  • avatar

    My wife’s a school bus driver, and in our area, people are constantly running the reds, with many near incidents and about 2x per school year a kid getting hit. Police are nearly powerless to do anything, because the odds on them actually seeing it are slim to none, and they quite frankly don’t have the resources to constantly ride the buses. Local publicity is not helping slow it down. State mandates how far in advance the yellows have to be operating, and all drivers I have seen follow the law. Most drivers will not allow their kids to get off the bus until traffic is stopped, but that hasn’t stopped drivers from passing stopped cars. The school bus drivers are really good about pulling over and letting cars pass them too. Excusable to run a buses reds, but how do you stop it?

  • avatar

    Sounds like they want as many people passing school buses as possible. Cha-Ching!

  • avatar

    +1 drivebywire,

    Anytime they say it’s ‘for the children’ it’s usually ‘for the revenue’.

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