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Kanawha tests way to ID drivers passing buses

Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham Cameras like the one mounted on the bottom side of school buses can capture the license plate numbers of motorists who illegally pass while students are being let on or off. However, since state law doesn’t allow for prosecution based solely on license plates, Kanawha County has entered a pilot program in conjunction with the state Department of Education equipping a bus with high-definition cameras that can capture the faces of drivers. This, says the county’s prosecuting attorney, will allow him to win cases against violators.
Charleston Daily Mail photo by Craig Cunningham
Cameras like the one mounted on the bottom side of school buses can capture the license plate numbers of motorists who illegally pass while students are being let on or off. However, since state law doesn’t allow for prosecution based solely on license plates, Kanawha County has entered a pilot program in conjunction with the state Department of Education equipping a bus with high-definition cameras that can capture the faces of drivers. This, says the county’s prosecuting attorney, will allow him to win cases against violators.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — When people illegally pass school buses in West Virginia, they’re rarely brought to justice because state law doesn’t allow police to ticket offenders solely based on a license plate number.

Kanawha transportation officials are trying out new technology that can positively identify who’s behind the wheel when a vehicle passes a stopped school bus. During a pilot program between Kanawha County Schools and the West Virginia Department of Education, a set of high-quality cameras has been installed on a Kanawha school bus, constantly looking for anyone who passes while the bus is stopped and the bus’s stop sign is out.

Kanawha school buses are already outfitted with cameras on the inside and outside of the bus. But Mike Pickens, executive director of the Office of School Facilities for Kanawha County Schools, said the new cameras being tested on the Kanawha school bus use cutting-edge technology that can effectively capture a video so clear, the face of a driver of a vehicle passing a school bus can be identified.

“What we’re hearing from law enforcement folks now is it’s difficult to identify the face of drivers in the vehicles who illegally pass school buses,” Pickens said. “With the improved technologies and advanced video capabilities, if law enforcement can identify folks, hopefully it will allow them to be proactive in issuing arrests which will deter illegal passing.”

The Daily Mail reported that only a small fraction of people who illegally pass stopped school buses end up being ticketed or arrested because of a change to state law in 2010. Penalties for passing a stopped school bus were stiffened — the maximum fine was increased from $200 to $500 — but the secondary offense for passing a school bus, which allowed police to ticket the owner or lessee of a vehicle caught passing a school bus even if the driver couldn’t be identified, was wiped from the books in 2010.

Kanawha prosecutor Chuck Miller said the stiffened penalties have made law enforcement reluctant to issue citations for passing a school bus unless police can positively identify the driver…

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