Southern Nevada’s horrible driving culture reveals itself everywhere, every day. But few acts of stupid impatience are as dangerous as passing a stopped school bus that’s picking up or dropping off children.
In May, Nevada school bus drivers reported being passed an average of nearly three times per day while their lights were flashing. Nationally, the average is just one illegal pass per day, per bus. Within the Clark County School District, that translates to more than 3,500 illegal passes per day.
As reported Sunday by the Review-Journal’s Trevon Milliard, Frank Giordano, the school district’s transportation manager, has a technology-rooted idea that could greatly reduce those violations and make students substantially safer. Ironically, his plan is currently against the law.
Mr. Giordano has attached to two school district buses cameras that can capture the license plates of vehicles that pass when his drivers have deployed their flashing lights and stop signs. However, under Nevada law, “photographic, video or digital equipment” cannot be used to issue traffic tickets unless the equipment is in the hand or vehicle of a police officer.
The law is in place for good reason. It blocks the use of cameras atop traffic signals to ticket red-light runners. Several communities that have installed such cameras, such as San Diego, gave the manufacturers a cut of ticket revenue to cover equipment costs, only to see those companies shorten yellow-light intervals to increase the number of citations issued. Camera-based, mailed citations also raise due process issues because, although photographs from elevated signals show license plates, they don’t always show who’s driving the vehicle.
Mr. Giordano is using the cameras, made by federal contractor Gatekeeper, to collect data for presentation to the 2015 Legislature. He intends to ask lawmakers to amend the state statute to allow “stop-arm” cameras. Although the cameras have been installed on the buses where drivers have reported the most violations — which could lead to inflated district-wide averages, if reported as such — there’s no denying the problem and the dangers it poses.
By all means, the Clark County School District should study the problem and take its footage to Carson City in 17 months. But in lobbying for an amendment to state law, the school district should ask for language that eliminates the possibility of abuses. For example, in Washington state, stop-arm camera makers cannot receive a share of ticket revenue. They can only be paid for equipment and services. That would require schools to make a case for funding cameras over other capital needs, or raise money privately.
Any changes to state law also must ensure motorists’ rights are protected — photographing drivers as well as license plates would help — and keep traffic-signal cameras illegal. Finally, the goal should be improved safety and reduced violations, not the creation of a new revenue stream that schools or any other entity come to rely upon.