BETHESDA, Md. - Montgomery County police said they have issued 32,559 citations to drivers who have illegally passed stopped school buses during the 2017-2018 school year.
With 182 instructional days in the school year for Montgomery County Public Schools, police have sent out an average of 179 of these citations a day.
Montgomery County Public Schools has put cameras on the outside of its school buses to catch drivers who blow by buses that have activated their flashing red lights and stop arms. Right now, there are 500 buses that are equipped with cameras. By this time next year, all 1,350 Montgomery County Public Schools buses are expected to have cameras installed on them.
Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone, the head of the department's Traffic Division, said police have been trying to stop this type of dangerous activity for years. Their school bus camera enforcement program is not only catching drivers in the act, but it also shows just how frequent this problem is.
"We have been writing ticket for years," said Didone. "I have been a traffic officer for 36 years and the bottom line is I would see one or two. We didn't think there were many, but the camera doesn't lie. It paints an accurate picture."
One example of this danger happened back in April. Video from an onboard school bus camera near Flower Valley Elementary School in Rockville showed the bus stopping and putting on its lights and stop sign to pick up students.
However, a car driving in the opposite direction on Bauer Drive passes right by the stopped bus. Thankfully, Jarius Taylor, a fifth grade safety patrol member, was there and stopped a kindergarten student from crossing the road and into the path of the car. Taylor received a lifesaving award for his actions while the driver caught on camera got a $250 citation.
If you are caught by a police officer for this same offense, the fine is $570 and three points will be assessed to the driver.
According to Montgomery County police, their school bus camera enforcement program began in 2014. Police said there were 19,566 citations issued during the majority of the 2016-2017 school year.
School officials said they will be working all summer long to add cameras to their buses.
Expect to hear more about this in August as Montgomery County schools get ready to open back up for the fall. Police said they are going to do a full-court press to not only get out the word about this problem, but to make it clear that somebody could be seriously injured or killed if this does not stop.