Cobb school bus cameras catch 500 more violators this year

Cobb County officials met Thursday to figure out how to curb a 31-percent increase in people illegally passing school buses.

"The kids are important enough that we are watching and doing our due diligence to try to bring up in one’s mind the safety of our children," Sgt. Dana Pierce, spokesman for the Cobb County Police Department.

Officials from the police department along with staff from the school district and the company that runs the camera technology — ATS, American Traffic Solutions — developed a plan for the school year to try and lower the number of violators.

Here's how it works: The ATS cameras catch people blowing by a bus with its stop arm down. Then the company sends the photo to a Cobb police sergeant who reviews the photo and sends word back to ATS whether there was a violation of Georgia law. If so, ATS sends a $300 fine out to the address to the car's registered owner.

» No need to be polite with motorists who flout school bus laws

Cobb police statistics show that 2,241 people violated the law in August. Last year, that number was 1,712, and the year before was 1,822.

The Cobb school board approved the use of cameras on school buses in 2012.

Pierce said that this is an issue at the beginning of every school year.

"People are not used to seeing (school) buses on the road," he said.

But he said he feels drivers are more distracted these days either from technology or talking to other people in their vehicles. Another factor is improved camera technology.

» Why you should never drive past a stopped school bus in Georgia 

Cameras can better read the tag number of the offending vehicle than last year.

"If this technology helps save one life, then we all as a community are better for that," Pierce said.

» Interactive quiz: Find out how well you know the traffic rules about school bus safety

Officials at the meeting will work together to create a driver education campaign, including filming a public service announcement and installing signs around the county.

Representatives at Cobb schools and ATS were not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon after the meeting.

Here's how not to get a $300 fine:

All traffic in both directions must stop when a school bus stops with flashing signals, according to Georgia law.

Motorists heading in both directions must stop for school buses that are loading and unloading (lights flashing and stop arm extended), unless the road is divided by a median. If there is a median, vehicles traveling in the opposite direction of the bus aren’t required to stop.

» Read the excuses motorists gave to a judge after being caught by school bus cameras

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.