54 drivers ticketed using bus cameras | News
Drivers, don't say you weren't warned.
Houston County placed cameras on five buses last year to catch drivers illegally passing them, when stop arms are extended.
Transportation Director Tom Walmer says they want to add the cameras to 20 more buses.
Bus driver Debra Masa liked the idea from the start. She said, "I was really excited, because I don't want to see any child getting hurt."
On her Highway 96 route, she says cars pass the stop arm illegally most everyday; twice Friday morning.
Masa said, "Lights were flashing and 55 miles per hour."
To her dismay, her bus isn't equipped with a camera, at least not yet.
Transportation Director Tom Walmer wants to add 20 cameras to the existing five this spring.
Masa's would likely get one of them.
Walmer said, "We've been trying to evaluate where's the need, not to write tickets, but where's the need because were having violations."
He doesn't think they installed the cameras on the right buses at first, based on the number of citations mailed to drivers.
The cameras started operating in August, although they were actually mounted on the buses last spring.
Walmer said, "We went from 20 in August, to three or four in subsequent months. In December, I moved a couple of them."
He moved one of the camera's to a bus with a route on Corder Road. It's a Warner Robins street that runs between Watson Boulevard and Russell Parkway, with a heavy volume of traffic. The results were almost immediate.
Walmer said, "In December, which is a short month because of the break, there was 20 citations again."
13 of those citations came from the one bus camera he moved.
Walmer says it's not that he wants drivers to get tickets, and it's not about money.
The school system doesn't receive any of the ticket's $300 fine, nor did they pay for the camera's installation or operation.
He says it's all about student safety.
Masa believes more cameras will make an impact on drivers. She said, "Once they kind of realize they're there, it's amazing. Their habits start to slow down."
Eventually she hopes the awareness of the cameras puts the brakes on the number of tickets issued, too.
Of the 54 citations issued, Walmer says most people have paid the fine out-right. Six went to court. One person was successful in getting the ticket dismissed.
The fines are split between the company that installed the cameras, ATS, and Houston County Sheriff's Office.
ATS gets 75% of the fine this year, the first year of the contract. Walmer says the company is trying to recoup the cost of installation and operation.
Each year under the five-year contract with the company, the portion of the fine that goes to the company decreases, until it's split 50-50 with the sheriff's office.