New Technology On The Move: Sandwich Buses Now Equipped With Video

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By: Mary Stanley
Published: 08/24/12

When the school buses roll up to bus stops on Tuesday, September 4, there will be an added measure of security on board.

This year, as part of the contract agreement with the district’s school department, First Student Bus Company has equipped all of its buses with three video cameras that will capture images inside the vehicles and even outside of them.

School Business Manager Michelle J. Austin said one camera will be positioned on the dashboard and pointed toward the rear of the bus. A second camera will be stationed at the back of the bus and pointed forward to pick up on any images that the first camera may miss.

A third camera, also on the dashboard, will be pointed out toward traffic to pick up on any vehicles that may pass a bus as it is unloading or loading passengers.

“The cameras may be able to pick up on cars that pass by the driver’s side of the bus,” said Ms. Austin.

Police Chief Peter N. Wack said the cameras will be another tool that the police can use when investigating reports of incidents, such as a driver passing a bus with its emergency signals on or even reports of incidents that occur among students on the buses.

It’s like having Big Brother watching us and it’s a good thing.

                          Michelle Austin                                                 School Business Manager

“It’s new technology that will definitely help the town of Sandwich and we will move aggressively on drivers who violate the laws,” said Chief Wack.

Ms. Austin said if there are any incidents that occur between students or if there are any behavior issues that are reported, the video cameras are equipped with memory sticks so that school officials can view the activity on any bus at any time of any day.

She said last year, First Student Bus Company equipped its vehicles with a kind of GPS system called Zonar which can pinpoint exactly where a bus is located at any given time of the day. She said this technology has aided school officials with questions of when a bus arrived at a stop or how long it was at the stop.

“It can track every move of the bus, including how fast the bus is traveling, when the doors open, and how long it is at a bus stop,” Ms. Austin said.

She said last year, the school department received a few calls about a bus speeding or rolling through a stop sign and with one call to First Student’s dispatcher, she was able to determine the exact speed of the bus and whether it had stopped at the stop sign.

“It’s like having Big Brother watching us and it’s a good thing,” she said.

While that technology provided good information to the school department, it did have its limits.

“The only thing it could not tell us is how many people got on the bus. But now with the video equipment, we will have that information as well,” she said.

She said the video cameras can also aid school principals if a parent calls to say that their child did not get off the bus at their designated stop.

She said while the cameras will capture the students getting on and off of the bus, the Zonar can determine which bus stop the student entered or exited the bus.

Ruth M. Joseph, principal of the Forestdale School said she is happy that the buses are equipped with this new technology.

“It definitely will be a positive thing for us. It allows us to have good information about what is happening on the buses,” Dr. Joseph said.

In addition to this new equipment, Ms. Austin said the buses will also be equipped with new lights and strobes to warn drivers that the vehicle is stopping to load or unload passengers.

“It would almost be impossible for a driver not to see the lights,” said Ms. Austin.

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