Drivers who don't stop for children getting off of school buses could soon face a fine of up to $250 under a bill moving through the County Council.
The council's Public Safety Committee unanimously recommended the bill at its meeting Thursday, and the issue will go before the full council as early as Feb. 7.
The bill, introduced by County Councilmember Valerie Ervin, does not specify a cost, fine amount or number of cameras. Instead, it authorizes Montgomery County Police to consult with the Board of Education on a plan to install cameras on certain buses.
Councilmember Phil Andrews, who chairs the Public Safety Committee, said the county has issued more than 1,200 citations over the past three years for failure to stop at a bus crossing, and that passing the bill will send a clear message to drivers.
"It happens way too often," he said. "It's very dangerous, and this is a way, we hope, to reduce the likelihood that we'll see these kinds of violations in the future."
Earlier this week, a Silver Spring parent set up a camera outside his kids' bus stop, catching numerous drivers ignoring the law and passing the stopped bus.
Currently, enforcement of the law is limited to a letter sent to violators that carries no fine. Furthermore, many instances go unreported because bus drivers don't catch the plates of the cars that pass by, said Todd Watkins of Montgomery County Public Schools' Department of Transportation.
The bill comes after a 2011 state law allowing for the use of video cameras on buses to catch offenders, capping the possible fine at $250.
But County Council attorney Robert Drummer said Montgomery County may want to set its fine below the maximum. The higher the cost, the more likely offenders are to contest the fine in court, he said, and the county only receives money from citations paid outside the courtroom.
The county will also need to decide on how and where to get the cameras.
Richard Harrison, program manager of MCPD's Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, said each camera will likely cost between $5,000 and $8,000, and the county can either put out a request for proposals or negotiate a deal with the vendors it currently uses for speed and red-light cameras.
Watkins said the program would ideally start with a couple dozen cameras on MCPS's most problematic bus routes and then, if successful, expand from there.
Calvert and Frederick counties are also considering similar programs, Harrison said.
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