CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A new law that took effect in June allows law enforcement to use video obtained from school bus cameras to make charges against drivers who illegally pass a stopped bus.
Before that, the officer had to witness the illegal passing to prosecute the crime.
"The Highway Patrol continues to receive reports of people disregarding the stop arms and flashing lights of school buses," the state's Department of Public Safety Director Leroy Smith said in a release from the agency. "We are pleased that law enforcement will have another tool to help us make our school bus routes even safer for children."
The law gives the Highway patrol and other law enforcement the additional evidence they may need when making a case for a stop-arm violation and has school districts around the state installing exterior camera systems that will record several different angles of a passing vehicle to identify the license plate and driver.
SCDPS received more than 540 complaints about motorists passing stopped school buses from the Department of Education since 2013, the release states. During the same time, SCDPS and local law enforcement issued 159 citations for Disregarding a Stop Arm.
With video taken from a school bus camera, the Highway Patrol will notify the registered owner of the vehicle that the violation occurred and that the appropriate law enforcement agency will investigate and make any appropriate charges, the release states.
The minimum fine for a first offense is $500 plus court fees, which can total up to $1,000 and six points on the violators driving record. The minimum fine for a second offense is a $2,000 fine and six points on the violator's driving record.
According to the law:
- On two-lane roadways, motorists traveling in both directions must stop when a school bus's stop arm is out and flashing.
- On four or more-lane roads, motorists approaching a school bus from the opposite direction do not have to stop, but motorists behind the bus must stop.
As back-to-school season approaches, Smith said drivers should expect to see more troopers and blue lights on school bus routes and in school zones, particularly those where a high number of violations are reported.