Cameras on Pennsylvania school buses will protect students and hold bad drivers accountable

School is starting, so please be careful around the buses. If you don’t, I’m happy to report that it will cost you in several Lehigh Valley communities.

Every school bus in the Allentown, Bethlehem, Kutztown and Northwest Lehigh school districts will be equipped with stop arm cameras. These cameras will capture videos and photos of impatient and clueless drivers whizzing past buses as they load and unload their precious passengers.

Those drivers will receive a $300 ticket in the mail.


The best thing about this program, in addition to holding selfish leaders accountable, is that it doesn’t cost school districts or their taxpayers a dime. The cameras are installed for free by BusPatrol, a technology and safety company in Virginia.

BusPatrol makes money by receiving a portion of the fines collected from violators. The fact that the business model works – the costs usually pay for themselves within one to three years – shows how many people don’t stop on buses.

BusPatrol and officials from the Allentown, Bethlehem, Kutztown and Northwest Lehigh school districts announced the student safety collaboration Wednesday at a news conference at South Mountain High School in Allentown.

For the paranoid who scream about Big Brother invading their privacy, here are the answers to the questions you’ll probably be talking about.

Are cameras really necessary?

As I said, the fact that BusPatrol can provide cameras for free and be sure to get paid for it is the biggest confirmation that people speeding past stopped buses is a big problem.

But if you want the data, here it is: The Allentown School District was the first to try the cameras in Pennsylvania. A 2019 test of cameras on the stop arms of two buses showed that on average, each bus illegally passed twice a day when students were boarding or disembarking.

Still not satisfied?

Well, in 16 days last year, 267 violations were recorded by the cameras being used on a trial basis by the Bethlehem School District, Mark Stein, the district’s chief operations and operations officer, said at a news conference Wednesday.

He also substitutes as a bus driver when needed. He watched as drivers sped past his stopped bus as children got off it. It’s a feeling of helplessness.

“All you can do is honk or yell at the kids to watch out or stop,” Stein said.

GOOD. But how do we know the cameras are accurate?

Less than 5% of tickets are contested, said BusPatrol CEO Jean Soulier. This is telling. On the BusPatrol website, the perpetrators can see a video of themselves committing the crime.

Do you really believe that cameras will act as a deterrent and change driving habits?

According to Soulier, 96% to 98% of people who get a ticket from BusPatrol never get another one. Lessons have definitely been learned.

I have one big unanswered question: Why aren’t all school districts in Pennsylvania using this technology to protect their students?

“It’s only when kids feel safe that they can truly dedicate themselves to learning,” Sen. Pat Brown, R-Allentown, said Wednesday.

He wrote legislation that was passed in 2018 to allow the use of cameras at school bus stops.

Brown was an Allentown mother lobbied to write this law, Amber Clark, after she had to drag her kindergartner out of her car as she tried to board a bus. Clark and her daughter, Olivia Clark-Ortiz, proudly attended Wednesday’s press conference.

Another law passed in 2020 allows school districts to enter into agreements with companies such as BusPatrol, which mails out tickets after they are approved by law enforcement. Tickets can be contested at a hearing before a district judge. Unpaid tickets are sent to a district judge for adjudication.

So the accused can have their day in court. Their due process rights are protected. Tickets are sent to vehicle owners. If they were not driving at the time, they have an opportunity to prove it.

Sixteen districts in Pennsylvania currently have contracts with BusPatrol to provide the cameras. They include several near the Lehigh Valley area, including Quakertown, Methacton, Phoenixville, Spring Ford and Hazleton.

Soulier told me that other areas in Pennsylvania will soon be using his company’s technology as well. According to him, next year about 15,000 more buses will receive cameras.

Let me repeat what I said in a previous column two years ago. School buses are not hard to spot. They are big. They are yellow. When they are loading or unloading children, they have flashing red lights and a flashing stop sign.

So there is no excuse to miss one.

Drivers who finally do will be prosecuted and made to pay for it. And our children will be safer.

Morning Call columnist Paul Muschick can be reached at 610-820-6582 or at

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