More school buses equipped with cameras to hold stop arm violators accountable

(ABC 6 News) – Minnesota lawmakers are on a mission to make getting to and from school safer for our students. Since last year, the Dept. of Public Safety has been awarding millions of dollars to school districts and transportation companies to put stop arm cameras on buses.

It plans to award $14.7 million dollars in all. So far, more than $11 million has been given to 113 school districts and transportation companies.

In southeast Minnesota, nearly a dozen districts have gotten grants totaling nearly $400,000. This includes Albert lea, Kingsland, Lyle, Kasson, Stewartville, Chatfield and Triton.

In the past, bus drivers had to look out the window and try to catch the license plate of the cars blowing through the stop arm sign while also trying to monitor the kids on the bus. Now with these cameras, it will let the bus driver focus on the most important thing, which is making sure the kids are safe.

This week in Ohio, one bus driver’s quick thinking saved a child’s life. These close calls are happening across the country, including in Minnesota. Now, school bus companies can apply for part of the $14,7 million dollar grant to help pay for cameras to hold drivers accountable.

“The millions of dollars the state has spent is going to be well worth it for the kids safety,” said Mike Bernard, the owner and CEO of Bernard Buses in Chatfield.

Grisim Bus Company in Stewartville got the cameras installed six months ago, and manager Bryan Runkle says there have been 15 stop arm violations and all of them have been successfully convicted.

“If you had one letter wrong, or one number wrong, you were dead in the water, so this has really been an improvement for us,” Runkle explained.

Every time a driver blows past the stop sign, all the company has to do is check the footage to get the license plate and vehicle description.

Bernard Bus Services in Chatfield serves more than 1,200 students every day and had cameras installed last month. It’s already had 11 stop arm violations successfully recorded, but it’s taking prevention a step further.

New strobe lights have also been installed on the bus to make sure drivers know that the bus is stopping.

Bernard says that there have been too many close calls with drivers over the years.

“This could be your child someday, this could be your grandchild someday, please stop for us,” Bernard added.

There are still two more phases of this state-funded grant money underway.