Board agrees to five-year deal with BusPatrol

By Gary Weckselblatt

The Quakertown Community School Board has entered into an agreement dedicated to student transportation safety with BusPatrol, which will equip Levy School Buses with stop-arm cameras to deter drivers from illegally passing stopped school buses.

BusPatrol’s camera system is positioned to capture vehicles that pass a school bus while the stop arm is extended and flashing red lights are activated.

“I love this,” said Board member Todd Hippauf, a yea in the 6-2 vote. “I think this is a no-brainer.”

Janet Pelone, Quakertown Community School District’s Director of Transportation and Pupil Services, said “We hope this program will help bring awareness to the community to be more careful around school buses at any time of day. We want everyone to get where they are going, but to do so safely.”

The program is expected to begin in mid-September.

During the Board’s March 10th meeting, David Gold, a program manager for BusPatrol, and Brian Ferry, principal consultant for FirstNet, explained the technology, installation, and maintenance are all provided at zero cost to the district. BusPatrol’s platform is entirely violator-funded, they maintained.

Law enforcement will review and confirm that a violation occurred before a civil violation notice is generated by BusPatrol and sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. No points are assessed to the vehicle’s owner.

The violation is $300, with $25 going to a state student safety grant, $25 to the local police department, $100 to QCSD, and $150 to BusPatrol.

Pennsylvania's School Bus Stopping Law requires drivers to stop at least 10 feet away from school buses that have their red lights flashing and stop arm extended. That’s considered the Danger Zone -- the area on all sides of the bus where students are in the most danger of not being seen by the driver (10 feet in front of the bus where the driver may be too high to see a student, 10 feet on either side of the bus where a student may be in the driver’s blind spot, and the area behind the school bus).

Motorists must stop when they are behind the bus, meeting the bus or approaching an intersection where a bus is stopped. Motorists following or traveling alongside a school bus must also stop until the red lights have stopped flashing, the stop arm is withdrawn, and all children have reached safety. This includes undivided highways, such as Route 309, for example.

“This is one of the most serious traffic offenses that’s impossible to enforce the way it’s set up right now unless you have video pictures,” Board member Chuck Shermer said.

According to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, drivers across the U.S. are reported to drive past stopped school buses 17 million times a year.

Board President Jon Kern and Director Glenn Iosue voted against the agreement. “It increases the surveillance state, which kind of gives me a pause,” Mr. Kern said. 

Levy Bus Co. and its drivers have been supportive of the BusPatrol plan. And during BusPatrol presentations to the Board on March 10 and April 28, community officials spoke in favor of the agreement.

Richlandtown Borough Mayor Wayne Codner said “It would be a great help in keeping the children safe.” And Quakertown Councilman Jonathan Sell said “The borough is on board with this.”

Gary Weckselblatt, QCSD Director of Communications, writes about the people and the programs that impact the Quakertown Community School District. He can be reached at 215-529-2028 or [email protected].
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