Drivers who don't stop for children getting off of school buses will soon face a fine of up to $250 under a law passed by the County Council on Tuesday.
The council passed the measure unanimously at its Tuesday meeting, and Councilmember Valerie Ervin said it will send a clear message to drivers that Montgomery County is serious about children's safety.
The bill, introduced by Ervin, does not specify a cost, fine amount or number of cameras. Instead, it authorizes Montgomery County Police to consult with the Board of Education on a plan to install cameras on certain buses.
County Police Chief Thomas Manger, who joined Ervin and others at a news conference Tuesday, said there's no excuse for ignoring a school bus' stop sign and flashing lights, and the incoming cameras will help keep students safe.
"I can't think of a more egregious violation, a more dangerous violation, than passing a school bus that is loading or unloading children," he said.
Richard Harrison, program manager of MCPD's Automated Traffic Enforcement Unit, has said each camera will likely cost between $5,000 and $8,000, and the county can either put out a request for proposals or negotiate a deal with the vendors it currently uses for speed and red-light cameras.
Currently, enforcement of the no-passing law is limited to a letter sent to violators that carries no fine. Furthermore, many instances go unreported because bus drivers don't catch the plates of the cars that pass by, according to Todd Watkins of Montgomery County Public Schools' Department of Transportation.
Tuesday's bill comes after a 2011 state law allowing for the use of video cameras on buses to catch offenders, capping the possible fine at $250.
But County Council Attorney Robert Drummer has said that Montgomery may want to set its fine below the maximum. The higher the cost, the more likely offenders are to contest the penalty in court, he said, and the county only receives money from citations paid outside the courtroom.
Watkins said the program will likely start with a couple dozen cameras on MCPS's most problematic bus routes and expand from there.
Before the camera program takes effect, Montgomery County will partner with the schools to inform the public of the law and the penalties for breaking it, Ervin said. She even has an idea for a slogan — "The bus stops here."
Bob Herron, an MCPS bus driver of 21 years, said the cameras can't come soon enough: Drivers passed his bus five times Monday while he was picking up and dropping off students.
In January, a Silver Spring parent , catching numerous drivers ignoring the law and passing the stopped bus.