An elementary-aged youngster stands near the curb of a Hannibal street. Across the road from the child waits a school bus, its stop arm extended. However, instead of stepping out in the street the girl hesitates, and with good reason. Approaching from her left is a dark-colored sedan, which drives past the child and bus without any hint of braking. Had the youngster not been paying more attention than the driver of the car the outcome could have been horrific.
That incident was one of three near-miss videos shown to the Hannibal Board of Education by Brent Meyer, the district’s transportation director, during the school board’s Wednesday night meeting.
"It’s scary," said Dr. David Jackson, school board president.
What is even scarier is the frequency that motorists either choose to ignore or are too distracted and fail to stop for a school bus’ extended stop arm, as is required by law.
"We’ve seen more (stop-arm) violations," said Meyer. "We’ve seen 70 violations so far this year."
"There’s zero tolerance for that. The law is pretty clear on that," said Hannibal Police Chief Lyndell Davis. "We work very closely with them (school district) on that."
The partnership between the school district and HPD, whose shared goal is to keep bus riders safe, has become more effective in recent years since buses equipped with camera systems have been added to the fleet.
"It’s been a standard option that we’ve requested on the last nine buses we have purchased," said Rich Stilley, business manager of the school district.
At a cost of approximately $1,000 a bus the district has retrofitted some of its older buses with cameras, too. Meyer reports that 13 of the district’s 34 buses now have stop-arm cameras.
"It’s well worth the money, it really is," said Stilley. "Obviously the main thing we want to do is keep all of our children, our buses, our staff, everybody completely safe. Having this deterrent is very important for us."
"We applaud their efforts in trying to get that technology on their buses because ultimately any reasonable person is going to want to do whatever they can to ensure the safety of the children. That’s just the appropriate step to do," added Davis. "It (cameras) aids us. It aids them. In those situations when we have to do enforcement it’s definitely a benefit."
Before the addition of cameras to buses, Meyer said it was extremely hard for bus drivers to read the license plates of vehicles violating school bus stop arms.
"It’s virtually impossible," said Stilley. "Think of passing a car on the highway, trying to identify the license plate number as it goes by. These cameras are an absolute saving grace when it comes to identifying the folks who are violating the law."
"There’s no argument (about the violation) because you have it on video," said Davis. "It’s beneficial."
According to Stilley, when a stop-arm violation is caught on camera the clip is turned over to police.
"Then it’s entirely up to the prosecuting attorney and city to file charges," he said.
Reach reporter Danny Henley at email@example.com