Motorist citations increase by five times countywide


A bus stops on Whittier Blvd. Since October of 2016, school buses have been fitted with stop-arm cameras. Now, cars that pass them are caught and fined much more often. Photo by Lukas Gates.

By Maddy Frank

Citations for motorists who passed stopped buses jumped from 2,967 in 2016 to 13,886 in 2017almost 5 times higher, according to a January 2018 MCPS 2017 Fiscal Year report. The jump follows an initiative by MCPS in October 2016, when they began outfitting school buses with cameras to catch motorists that passed them while they stopped for students.

Force Multiplier Solutions, a business that makes cameras for buses, created the new technology called BusGuard. When a bus’ stop arm is extended, the stop-arm camera photographs any vehicle that passes the bus in either direction. It’s likely even more motorists pass the bus illegally but aren’t caught by the cameras, Legislative Aid for the Board of Education Patricia Swanson said. Even with the citations, she estimated that motorists pass MCPS buses illegally 800 to 1,200 times each school day.

In addition to this new camera technology, a billSenate Bill 154—raised the fine for drivers who pass buses from $125 to $250 after the number of incidents rose through 2015 and 2016.

According to the MCPD, motorists aren’t stopping because they either don’t understand the law or are too impatient to stop.

These cameras may teach drivers to follow the law because police can’t be there all the time to enforce it, senior Josh Engels said.

“It’s important to make sure you have cameras so that no one gets hit,” Engels said.

Some, however, have concerns over the cost of upgrades to buses. But the cost isn’t an issue if it’s going to increase the safety of the students, said Maryland Senator Nancy King.

“If it saves one child from being hit by a car that’s in too much of a hurry to stop, it’s worth every bit of work we put into it,” said King.