House bill seeks stiffer penalties for stop arm violators

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GREENSBORO, NC -- A proposed bill in the NC House of Representatives would make for harsher penalties on drivers who pass stopped school buses and help fund equipment to catch more of them.

House Bill 428 proposes higher fines for those that ignore buses stopped with blinking lights and stop arm out; it would also provide for license suspension for repeat offenders and license revocation for some felony offenders.

A portion of the bill says it would "encourage local school boards" to use the fine money to pay for cameras that could catch violators on video.

Without cameras, bus drivers are currently responsible for taking down license plate numbers, vehicle descriptions, times, and dates of the incidents.

Guilford County Schools Director of Transportation Jeff Harris said that's never the main focus of his drivers.

"They're focused on the safety of the child getting on and off the bus," Harris said.

Currently, 75 of Guilford County's 605 buses have the stop arm cameras. Along with three other cameras placed inside the bus and a hard drive to capture all the video, purchase and installation of an entire system costs about $2,000 per bus.

Harris said he would buy all the equipment he could with whatever money the state gave him.