Putting cameras on the stop arms of Indiana school buses is a good idea, but only if they're used properly.
The House Roads and Transportation Committee is set to vote Thursday on House Bill 1042, which would authorize public and private schools that operate bus fleets to contract with companies to install cameras on school bus stop arms and photograph drivers failing to stop.
The key here is to photograph drivers, not just snap a photo of their license plate.
An average of 33 children a year are killed in the United States in accidents involving school buses, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, although nearly all of these fatalities involve bus drivers accidentally running over a child.
Still, driving around a stopped school bus while it loads or unloads children is dangerous and should not be tolerated.
"I don't want to wait until there's a tragedy because someone runs a stop arm on a school bus," said state Rep. Milo Smith, R-Columbus, who is sponsoring HB 1042.
Driving around those stopped buses is unfortunately very common. Sherry Dean of AAA Indianapolis testified last week that a one-day tally of stop-arm violations could mean more there are than 300,000 violations a year.
Smith's proposal would require a photograph or video from an alleged violation to be reviewed by a local police officer, who would then decide whether to issue a citation.
The civil fines would be $300 for the first violation, $750 for the second violation within five years, and $1,000 for a third violation.
Police would also retain the ability to issue tickets on the spot if they witness stop-arm violations. Having police on hand is the best enforcement method.
Use technology to help crack down on these violations, but realize that tracking down the offender via a photo of a license plate identifies the vehicle but not the driver. It's a tool for law enforcement, but not a perfect one.
Tickets resulting from stop arm cameras should be issued only when the driver can be identified.