Preliminary number of warnings during the 60-day period reached over 1,000
Beginning on January 18, the BusPatrol school bus safety program in Charles County will go into full effect–meaning motorists who violate bus-stopping laws, as captured on buses outfitted with cameras, will receive an actual citation in the mail rather than a letter of warning. The Charles County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) and Charles County Public Schools (CCPS), in partnership with a safety technology company, BusPatrol, launched the program in November 2021 and provided a 60-day warning period in which violators received a letter in the mail alerting them of the violation and making them aware of the laws. The program placed 375 cameras on school buses to deter drivers from illegally passing stopped school buses that have their red lights activated. From November 18, 2021 – to December 31, 2021, the number of violations detected by BusPatrol cameras was 1,120. Evaluating the data from the grace period revealed the three leading areas of violations are:
- 5100 block of Leonardtown Road near Forest Park in Waldorf
- 2800 block of Crain Highway in Waldorf
- 6300 block of Crain Highway in La Plata
In the Leonardtown Road area, the roadway has multiple travel lanes on either side and is not divided into two or more roadways by an intervening space such as a barrier, median, or a clearly indicated dividing section constructed to impede vehicular traffic. On these types of roadways, drivers on either side must stop for a school bus with flashing red lights, no matter what direction they are traveling. State highway signs forewarning drivers of the law are erected on either side of the roadway (see attached photos). Click on this link for an example of the violations on Leonardtown Road: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1ZFcsGXoN8oL_L-nVnos4sAltvCyae2bt/view?usp=sharing
Crain Highway is considered a divided highway throughout the entire county and as such has a barrier and median; therefore, drivers traveling on the opposite side of the roadway of a stopped school bus do not have to stop.
“These numbers clearly show drivers must do better when traveling on roadways with school buses,” said Sheriff Troy D. Berry. According to BusPatrol, the numbers of violations are comparable to other jurisdictions and serve as a stark reminder of the importance of being aware of the laws and knowing when to stop. “Keeping our school children safe, especially as they enter or exit the bus is a priority. It is the law for motorists to stop for school buses when the flashing red lights are on. Sadly, we have encountered drivers who are not following the law or who are not paying attention. Either way, this program will raise awareness of the requirements of the law when it comes to school bus stops and ultimately improve the safety of students,” said Sheriff Berry.
Much like the automated red-light camera program and automated speed enforcement cameras in school zones, all automated violations in Charles County are certified by a sworn employee with the Charles County Sheriff’s Office and issued through the BusPatrol program. The county civil citation from violations verified through the bus camera program will be $250 to the registered owner(s) of the vehicle but does not assess points.
Maryland law requires a driver of a motor vehicle to stop for a school vehicle (school bus) that is stopped and operating flashing red lights and remain stopped until the school vehicle resumes motion or deactivates the flashing lights. If a driver violates this law in the presence of a police officer and it is cited by a police officer, the penalty is a $570 fine and 3 points.
The Charles County Sheriff’s Office is committed to the safety and well-being of schoolchildren who travel on our roadways in buses. These programs are working to improve school bus safety through education and enforcement.
To see another actual violation in Charles County, click on this link: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1pXsX9nuQqG_JP1bgokxEe6yM1PfNg30K/view?usp=sharing