As of June 21, the Bellevue School District’s (BSD) last day of school, bus paddle cameras recorded 923 violations.
BSD first announced the installment of the bus paddle cameras in September.
School bus drivers inspired the idea after expressing concern over the safety of their students.
Mark Hazen, the director of transportation with BSD, said he was deeply concerned for the safety of the students he and the other school bus drivers pick up and drop off every day.
With more people moving to Bellevue, he said traffic is increasing and more drivers are neglecting to stop when a school bus puts out its stop paddle.
Bus paddle cameras were installed on 27 BSD school buses in October—20 percent of BSD’s bus fleet. The high-resolution cameras are attached to the exterior of the school buses and detect vehicles that pass when the bus’s stop paddle is extended. The cameras record an image and video of the passing vehicle’s license plate as well as the extended paddle.
Drivers who do not observe the paddle receive a $419 ticket from King County District Court.
A grace period for the bus paddle cameras was in effect from October until early January. Drivers who were recorded for violations during that time received a warning, not a citation.
Prior to the bus paddle camera enforcement date, BSD worked to provide educational resources for drivers on what to do when they see a school bus, such as spreading an informational graphic.
On Jan. 7, the bus paddle cameras went into full effect. In the first month of operation, 107 violations were recorded.
Melissa deVita, deputy superintendent of finance and operations for BSD, said she was surprised by the number of violations in the paddle cameras’ first month of operation.
“I’m surprised that it was that many. We put out a lot of effort to get the word out that this was happening,” she said.
From Jan. 7 to June 21, 923 violations were recorded.
BSD’s director of communications, Michael May, said the district didn’t expect as many violations but was also not surprised by the number.
“Of course, we’d like the number to be lower,” he said. “We will continue to educate drivers.”
Due to bus driver feedback, BSD will add eight more bus paddle cameras — totaling to 35 bus paddle cameras — starting next fall.
“We’re expanding to 35 cameras and have an emphasis on special needs buses,” he said. “A lot of our drivers said they felt they needed some extra support.”
May said the district will continue its public education for drivers throughout the summer and going into September.
“We think these cameras have good value,” he said. “It’s an opportunity for drivers to understand what they did and what they can do differently.”
For past stories about the BSD bus paddle program, go online to www.BellevueReporter.com.