Four school buses are set to snap pictures of vehicles that ignore stop signs while youngsters enter and exit on roads on the north side of Lake Murray.
Cameras mounted on the buses are part of a new emphasis on making travel less dangerous for Lexington-Richland 5 students.
“There’s nothing more important than the safety of our students,” superintendent Stephen Hefner said.
Lexington-Richland 5 is among the first schools in South Carolina testing the cameras as a way to identify motorists who pass stopped buses when they shouldn’t.
Pictures taken allow vehicle owners to be fined at least $500 for violations.
“Our concern is to make sure motorists are aware they need to stop and, if not, bring it to their attention in a more formal manner,” said Dave Weissman, who oversees student transportation for Lexington-Richland 5.
About 9,000 students ride to and from classes daily on 100 buses traveling in Chapin, Dutch Fork, Harbison, Irmo and St. Andrews.
Drivers report up to 200 violations each year in the area, a level Weissman calls “a fair share.”
No one totals such violations across South Carolina. But a one-day survey last spring taken by a third of the 85 public school districts reported 388 violations.
Adding cameras helps stop “aggressive drivers,” state Superintendent of Education Mick Zais said.
Identifying violators is difficult for bus drivers who must keep watch over students getting on and off as well as those seated, Weissman said.
So cameras are “a second set of eyes for drivers,” he said.
So far, one violation has occurred in Lexington-Richland 5 since cameras were installed in mid-September, he said.
Cameras are contained in three small domes on the side and top of each bus. Adding them costs up to $3,500 per bus, Weissman said.
School officials keep the routes the buses with cameras travel a mystery so that motorists will assumeevery one can photograph violators.
In addition, all 16,000 students in Lexington-Richland 5 and their parents were advised how to get on and off buses safely, not only for classes but for transit to events such as sports games.