(BALTIMORE) — School bus drivers in the Baltimore area have been caught on camera committing dangerous traffic violations, including speeding and running red lights, which have potentially put the lives of thousands of school children at risk and led to hundreds of citations.
Traffic citations obtained by ABC affiliate WMAR that were issued to Baltimore City and County bus drivers in the past two years show drivers breaking the law, often with children onboard. Speed and red light cameras have caught drivers in the area barreling up to 40 miles per hour over the speed limit and blowing through lights across the city and county.
“They’re a driver like everybody else. If they’re speeding or going through a red light, cameras are going to take them as well,” said Kristy Knuppel, a concerned parent.
Of at least 99 camera citations that were issued to public school bus drivers in Baltimore County, 19 citations were issued for red light violations and 80 were for speeding, with 37 of the tickets issued specifically to drivers operating within a school zone, which is by law a half-mile radius of a school.
Many citations for drivers who had repeated violations have been found. In an investigation launched by WMAR in Baltimore, at least 17 repeat offenders were found in the Baltimore County records, including a single bus that was cited five times in three months.
Baltimore City school records show at least 74 camera citations were issued in the same time frame. Eighteen of those tickets were issued for red light camera violations while 56 buses were cited for speeding.
The $40 tickets are issued only to vehicles recorded driving at least 12 mph over the speed limit, according to the Baltimore Sun, which reported that privately owned buses have received at least 800 automated speed citations in Baltimore City. The Sun reported that one bus was clocked at 74 mph.
Approximately 300 drivers are contracted to transport students in Baltimore County and Baltimore City, but the companies holding these contracts are not required to tell the districts when their drivers receive citations, WMAR reported.
Charles Herndon, a spokesman for Baltimore County Public Schools, told ABC News that the county has a progressive course of discipline for drivers that receive citations, which begins with a letter of reprimand and with repeated offenses can lead to dismissal. He said that in the county the drivers cover over 1,400 miles and 900 routes.
“When you take the mileage into consideration, it’s a small number. But even one [citation] is too many,” he said.
Herndon said that the county is now nearing the end of a five-year contract with its vendors, which he describes as “longstanding, reputable companies.” Since the speed and red light cameras were installed in the county in the past few years, this was not a factor in the original contracts. As new contracts are negotiated with the three vendors Baltimore county uses, Herndon says they will find a way of “verifying who and how many” drivers received citations.
Herndon also noted that in instances where drivers received multiple citations, at the time of their offenses they were unaware the cameras were filming them. He said that though it’s no excuse for speeding or running lights, it will influence future behavior.
“It’s something that would help to moderate behavior of drivers that are in violation,” he said. “And we’d hope drivers would not get into that position.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Alex Riggines, Times-News
Natalia Hepworth, EastIdahoNews.com