Photo courtesy of Mount Olive School District
By: Grace Maguire
Unfortunately, each of us can recall a time we have watched a vehicle drive by as a school bus is stopped to tend to children being dropped off and picked up. Every time this happens, a significant risk is being taken by the vehicle driving past. The parents and bus drivers should not have to question the safety of their students when going back and forth from school. The Mount Olive School District has seen and heard these fears and taken steps to help create change in its community.
Over the past six months, the Mount Olive School District implemented cameras outside four of their school buses. After many bus drivers complained and voiced their worries about vehicles illegally driving past their buses when taking care of the children, they knew a change needed to be made. Drivers did not have the time to record or write down the license plates. The next option was installing cameras. “We have cameras all over our school and cameras inside the buses. We should have cameras outside the buses,” Superintendent Robert Zywicki stated about the new bus accessory.
So far, only four buses have cameras installed as a pilot test. These compact cameras are placed underneath the stop arm and are constantly recording. If the bus driver sees a vehicle passing illegally while they are stopped, they can simply press a button on their dashboard, and the camera will get a clear shot of the vehicle and license plate in question. That video is then sent off to the Director of Security for Mount Olive School District, James Carifi. Just like the rest of the district, Carifi is invested in the well-being of the students and keeping the streets safer, “Motorists are passing stopped school buses everywhere, residential areas and side streets.” Carifi will then petition for a summons for the driver, and soon later, the driver will be asked to appear in court. Since implementing the first four cameras, Mount Olive School District has seen over 120 violations. These violators will get points on their license and a $300 fine.
Superintendent Robert Zywicki and the rest of the Mount Olive School District plan to equip the rest of the 72 buses with cameras by January 2022. “We want the message to be if you pass a school bus, you could kill a kid, number one, and number two, don’t do it because we are constantly watching,” Zywicki proclaimed. The path to getting these cameras in place was not a difficult one. The Board of Education fully backed the idea of the District, and the parents of the students were ecstatic about the new safety measure. When asked if any interactions with parents stood out, Superintendent Zywicki could proudly say, “Other than resounding applause?”
As more cameras are being put on school buses in the upcoming months, hopefully, the number of reckless drivers will decrease, and the number of safe children will increase. While placing cameras on the outside of school buses is a relatively new concept, Zywicki stated, “It would be great if every district did this.” Adding an extra measure of security to buses only keeps the children and drivers safer and creates a situation where the driver of the vehicle is held accountable. With all the excitement from the Mount Olive School District, Superintendent Robert Zywicki, and all the parents, cameras outside buses may become the new normal in the upcoming years.