11/5/2019US Senate Minority Leader Promotes Bus Cameras
Top US Senate Democrat calls for mandatory federal funding of school bus camera companies.
The scandal-plagued school bus stop-arm camera industry has a new ally in Washington -- US Senate minority leader Charles E. Schumer. The New York Democrat last week said turning the nation's school buses into ticketing platforms is "an issue of the utmost importance." Schumer wrote National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) acting administrator James C. Owens, urging him to release a report promoting the use of automated ticketing machines. Schumer is also asking the agency to direct federal grant cash to the private companies that install the devices.
"For years, the federal government has slow-walked the release of critical data and a report on the effectiveness of installing cameras on school bus stop signs as a measure of enforcing traffic laws and deterring perpetrators, essentially kneecapping safety improvement efforts," Schumer said in a statement. "So my message to the feds is simple: it's time to slow down cars and speed up the release of this potentially life-saving report, and if deemed necessary, change safety standards to require the installation of these cameras on all new school buses."
It is unclear whether the NHTSA report would back up Schumer's vision, as motorists who pass school buses are rarely the cause of injury to young students. TheNewspaper has analyzed NHTSA data from the past 34 years and found that school bus drivers caused 76 percent of fatalities involving a school bus from 1983 to 2017. Since 1983, the average number of fatal accidents caused by passing motorists has declined from 2.3 per year to just 0.2 per year.
School bus camera companies offer a "turnkey" service to school districts that does not require any up-front public funding. Several of these companies have been so eager to convince local officials to sign these lucrative deals that they were caught laundering campaign donations to politicians who backed the scheme. In Dallas, Texas, a $185 million school bus camera bribery scheme was among the largest public corruption scandals uncovered by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Dwaine Carway, the biggest proponent of automated ticketing on the Dallas City Council, was sentenced to four years in prison. He is scheduled for release on May 31, 2023.
A competing school bus camera firm, Redflex Traffic Systems, was likewise caught bribing officials in Chicago, Illinois, and Columbus and Cincinnati, Ohio. The executive vice president of Redflex admitted the corruption was not limited to those three cities, and instead included just about everywhere the company operated.