Are school bus cameras worthwhile for safety or will they wind up causing privacy problems and higher traffic accident rates similar to traffic cameras?

Gastonia, NC Correspondent-The city of Austin, Texas, long one of my favorite places on earth, made the national news recently over its implementation of cameras on school buses which are designed to catch those who refuse to heed the myriad of things that blink and beep to tell you the bus is stopped and speed blithely by, frequently mowing down a tot or two in the process.

The usual cast of civil libertarians came out against the plan, comparing it to the red-light cameras which have met with questionable success around the country. Those devices have been firmly linked to a higher incidence of accidents when people bent on running the light lose their nerve and slam on the brakes. Part of the problem with the cameras is that there are almost always questions to be answered. Was the light red? Was the car in the intersection?

With the bus cameras, however, these issues are non-factors. The cameras don’t come on until the stop arm is fully extended, so if your plate is caught by the all-seeing eye, you’re guilty. The fines are the same as the usual ones for speeding in school zones or passing a stopped bus, which means expensive.

Austin’s not the first city to try something like this, but it’s the most tech-savvy metropolis to make a stab at it, and the city fathers are getting it right. I’d like to see this taken nationwide, and not just because I have bus-riding kids of my own. Passing a stopped bus is simply inexcusable. If you don’t see it, you’re obviously far too preoccupied with your phone, bagel or whatever. If you DO see it and still choose to drive by, you’re simply a complete inconsiderate jackass who should be dragged from your vehicle and publicly flogged.

Owatonna, MN Correspondent-While it is lamentable that we have become a society inundated with security cameras, they serve as useful deterrents to crime for businesses that utilize them. Their value on school buses is less certain because serious crime on school buses is rare. Using cameras to verify misbehavior, bullying, or other acts typical of kids sends a message to young minds that Big Brother is always watching and that being under constant surveillance is a fact of life.

In this nation’s quest to raise responsible, creative, productive members of society, are we opting for the “safe route” of training obedient worker bees who fear stepping out of line or even thinking radical thoughts because they are constantly being monitored, and therefore theoretically judged, by some unseen Establishment?

The privacy problem issue is also critical because the camera is recording the actions of innocent children as well as the rare troublemaker. Should everyone be afraid to be themselves for fear of some innocent and legal action being misinterpreted or ridiculed? This is comparable to the TSA forcing everyone through the screening process at airports in hopes of catching the one person out of millions who might actually be a terrorist.

School bus drivers might be able to drive more safely with security cameras on board because they will not become distracted by any commotion with their passengers if they know a camera is recording all the action. However, drivers should be allowed enough control of their passengers to insist on a minimum level of good behavior in order to operate the bus safely (ex: requiring all students to stay seated and not making so much noise as to make it difficult for the driver to hear traffic, horns, train crossing signals, etc.).

School bus security cameras might catch the occasional miscreant in the act and facilitate fair and just punishment, but trolling for offenders seems to be not worth the expense for most school districts. The practice should either be stopped or improved in such a way as to be cheaper and more efficient in deterring misbehavior.

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