Montgomery County Police and Public School Officials Provide Back-to-School Safety Information and Announce Expansion Details of School Bus Camera Enforcement Program

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For Immediate Release: Friday, August 26, 2016 On Monday, August 29, more than 159,000 students will be welcomed back to Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). Today, officials from County government, the school system and the Montgomery County Police Department (MCPD) joined forces at the Lakelands Park Middle School in Gaithersburg to provide critical back-to-school safety information. “The start of the school year is just a few days away,” said Michael Durso, president of the Montgomery County Board of Education. “For far too long, we have seen many drivers overlook our students who ride buses by speeding past stopped school buses. As a community, we must take all the steps we can to keep them safe.” Additional speakers included: Superintendent Jack R. Smith, County Councilmembers Craig Rice and Sidney Katz, Director of the MCPD Traffic Division Captain Tom Didone, Director of MCPS Department of Transportation Todd Watkins and school bus driver Jennifer Velasquez. “Our mission is to ensure that all students are learning in our 204 schools,” said Schools Superintendent Smith. “But first, they have to safely make it to our schools. The responsibility for their safety belongs to all of us in this county.” Safety information was provided for parents, motorists and children about safe driving, walking, bicycle riding, and school bus riding. Find excellent safety information from MCPS at: http://montgomeryschoolsmd.org/saferoutes and from the County at http://bit.ly/2blPDVY. “As our students head back to school next week, getting them to and from school safely is paramount,” said Councilmember Rice. “I am very pleased that our long-term goal is to install cameras on all of our school buses. It’s not about generating revenue; it’s about obeying the law. If you see a school bus stop arm out, just stop. The safety of our kids is first and foremost.” On January 2, 2014, Montgomery County began the implementation of an automated school bus camera enforcement program with 25 cameras that could be strategically deployed throughout the County as needed. In the first two and a half years of the program approximately 4,800 violations were recorded by the cameras. On June 30, 2016, the County changed school bus camera vendors from the Xerox company to the FXS company, which specializes in producing a comprehensive video and audio system designed to assist in the enforcement of overtaking and passing stopped school buses as well as enhancing the safety of the occupants of school buses. Their product is currently being used in Texas, Louisiana, Virginia, and now in Maryland. By the first day of school, FXS-equipped buses will begin service in Montgomery County, and within 18 months, it is expected that up to 500 buses will be equipped and in service. In the next three years, all of the County’s 1,200 buses are scheduled to be protected by cameras. “With the amount of violations those 25 cameras recorded, we knew we had a significant problem that was absolutely unacceptable,” said MCPD’s Captain Tom Didone. We will soon have four times as many cameras as we had in the previous two and a half years of enforcement. While our goal is voluntary compliance, expect to receive a citation in the mail if you disobey the law.” The FXS company provides a comprehensive solution to enhancing school bus safety by providing many additional features that have not been available in the past. As well as the enforcement cameras located outside the bus, there will be exterior cameras mounted on the front and rear of each bus which can monitor suspicious activity in proximity to those areas, and assist in collision investigations. School buses will also have cameras inside the bus that can record audio as well as video to which school officials can gain real-time access in the event of an emergency. FXS also provides a Global Positioning System (GPS) for each bus, that will enable the tracking of its location. “MCPS buses are illegally passed hundreds of times every school day,” said MCPS Transportation Department Director Watkins. “While the school bus industry has a great track record for keeping students safe, I look forward to the renewed automated enforcement effort. The reality for me is that every illegal passing event is a potential life-changing tragedy for students and their families.” When approaching a stopped school bus with activated flashing red lights, Maryland law requires that motorists traveling in the same direction as the bus must stop and remain stopped until the stop sign and lights are de-activated. The law also requires that motorists approaching the bus from the opposite direction must stop UNLESS there is a physical barrier, such as a median. Remember, “Paint (the line markings on the roadway) Doesn’t Protect” (children crossing the street). School buses equipped with automated cameras are activated and record a vehicle passing a stopped school bus with flashing red lights. Those camera-captured violations are reviewed by the police department’s Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit and citations are mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. The fine is $125.00. No points are associated with a citation issued through the camera enforcement program. The fine for a citation issued by a police officer is $570 and can result in a driver receiving three points on a driver’s license. It is believed that when a driver passes a stopped school bus with red flashing lights, it is often because he/she is uninformed with regard to the requirements of the law, is impatient, or is distracted. County government, law enforcement and school officials are dedicated to continuing public education in an effort to gain voluntary compliance. However, with the greatly expanding number of enforcement cameras on County roadways, distracted or impatient drivers can expect many thousand more camera-generated citations to serve as deterrents to continuing this very dangerous practice. Please find copies of the “Short Arm of the Law (Kid Cop)” Public Service Announcements in English and Spanish for school bus camera enforcement at http://montgomeryschoolsmd.org/departments/itv/downloadPSA.shtm, and additional information at:http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/POL/bussafety.html. # # # Release ID: 16-439 Media Contact: Lucille Baur 240-777-6507

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