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Howard County School Buses Outfitted with External Cameras; Citations to be Issued

February 24th, 2021

Joint announcement from the Howard County Police Department and Howard County Public School System

School buses serving the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) have been outfitted with external cameras in order to ensure student safety by discouraging motorists from passing buses illegally, through an initiative implemented in partnership with the Howard County Police Department (HCPD).

The cameras, which were installed and will be maintained by BusPatrol America LLC, are able to capture 180-degrees and up to 8 lanes of traffic with high definition and full color images. The cameras will begin capturing the license plates of vehicles that pass a bus illegally beginning on March 1, 2021, when in-person instruction at HCPSS is scheduled to start. During the initial month, violators will be issued a warning, with paid citations to be issued beginning on April 1, 2021 by HCPD. State courts have set the fine for illegally passing a school bus at $250, with no points. All fines collected will go back into the costs of operating the external bus camera program. Any remaining funds over the cost of the program must be designated for Howard County public safety projects.

“The safety of our students as they travel to and from school is a collaborative effort that every citizen and visitor to Howard County must be accountable for,” said HCPSS Superintendent Michael J. Martirano. “Every day, too many drivers are traveling in an unsafe manner near our bus stops and in our school zones, putting our children at great risk. I am grateful for the partnership with the Howard County Police Department to advance this important aspect of maintaining safety at school bus stops.”

“The most common complaints we receive at the police department are about traffic violations, often in the very residential communities where school buses are picking up and dropping off our children,” said Police Chief Lisa Myers. “Passing those buses creates a serious potential danger to all students who are simply trying to travel safely to and from school. External cameras on school buses will send a message to drivers that it is critically important to stop for every school bus, every time.”

“Nothing is more important the safety of our kids,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “Every parent should feel comfortable sending their child to the bus stop, and these new cameras are an important deterrent for those putting our kids in harm’s way. I appreciate the support of the Howard County Council, Police Chief Myers, Superintendent Martirano, and the Board of Education for making this law a reality and ensuring accountability and enforcement when it comes to our children’s safety.”

The purpose of this initiative is to ensure that students who are entering and departing school buses are able to do so in a safe manner. School buses serve over 10,000 bus stops in Howard County every school day, transporting approximately 41,000 students. In a one-day survey conducted by bus drivers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 290 drivers failed to legally stop while a bus was picking up or dropping off students.

“Our students are our most precious resource and it is critical that they are able to travel to and from school in a safe manner,” said HCPSS Board Chair Chao Wu. “External bus cameras are in place in many school districts in Maryland and I am grateful that Howard County is now able to implement this important safety measure.”

Information about preventing school bus-related accidents, including laws about passing school buses, may be found on the Maryland Department of Transportation website.

Media inquiries may be directed to Sherry Llewellyn, HCPD at stllewellyn@howardcountymd.gov, or Brian Bassett, HCPSS at bbassett@hcpss.org.

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