Cameras are rolling on school busses and tickets are being issued to protect the city’s youth from devastating, yet avoidable, fatalities near school busses. In Glen Cove, the odds of drivers getting caught illegally passing school busses have increased with the installation of bus cameras.
State law prohibits drivers from passing school buses with the stop arms extended, even if the motorist is headed in the opposite direction and is separated from the stopped bus by a divider.
A 30-day warning period from November through December found a total of 396 violations recorded. Of those, 349 warnings were issued to the violators by mail.
As of Jan. 8, motorists who pass stopped buses with the red lights blinking and the stop arms deployed — from either direction — will be issued a summons and a $250 fine for the first offense, increasing to $275 for a second offense and $300 for a third. Violators will receive tickets by mail, like red-light camera violations. Since enforcement began on Jan. 8, there were 515 violations approved by the Glen Cove Police Department.
Police Chief William Whitton stated a little over 1 percent of instances recorded were believed to be an obstruction of view and not an intentional violation of the law.
The city and the school district partnered with BusPatrol, a Virginia-based school bus safety company, to install seven WiFi-enabled cameras on all buses, which will capture video of vehicles whose drivers break the law. There are seven cameras per bus. One camera is mounted on a bus’s windshield, two more are positioned on either side, and four cameras monitor its interior and passengers. BusPatrol has developed an artificial intelligence system called automated violation analysis. When it detects a violation, global positioning and other data are sent to BusPatrol’s processing center, and then AVA filters footage to enable human reviewers to conduct quality-assurance checks, compile video, and send an evidence package to law enforcement to affirm or deny a violation. If it is affirmed, a citation is generated and mailed to the offender with a web link to give them access to the video evidence of their violation.
Administrative Sgt. Michael Miller and a civilian clerk, review the footage for about an hour when schools are in session.
“It’s fairly straightforward,” Miller said, when asked about reviewing the footage. “You see some of the vehicles that have passed these busses and you look at them like what was that driver thinking? That was just blatant and dangerous beyond belief.”
The program is like the red-light camera program in Nassau County. As the public became aware of the presence of red-light cameras at various intersections, the number of summonses gradually decreased. While incidents still occur due to distractions or drivers’ unfamiliarity with certain intersections, overall, the awareness and familiarity with the camera system have contributed to a reduction in violations.
“What I suspect is going to happen with bus patrol is you’re gonna see the same type of behavior occur as people become more familiar with it,” Whitton said. “I know other communities on Long Island had been doing it for a while, and their numbers have gone down. I expect the same thing to happen here.”
The Glen Cove Board of Education discussed the program with City Councilwoman Danielle Fugazy Scagliola in 2021. A mother of four children in the district, she said she was happy that the program has begun.
The program is adjudicated by the county Traffic and Parking Violations Agency, and the bus company Hendrickson operates a fleet of 21 large buses and 50 smaller ones in Glen Cove are equipped with cameras. The city will receive 55 percent of the revenue from the fines, which will go to its general fund, and 45 percent of the revenue will go to BusPatrol.
Jason Elan, the company’s head of external affairs, said that BusPatrol, which has equipped some 7,000 buses across the state with cameras, has documented a nearly 40 percent reduction in stopped-bus infractions in Suffolk County, where school districts use the cameras. He added that violation statistics are sent to local governments so they can see when and where infractions are occurring.
“What’s very unique about AVA is that she’s only getting smarter as (she) … captures more violations,” Elan said. “Right now she’s 11 times smarter than the human eye.”