LEE COUNTY, Fla. — Drivers who pass stopped school buses might find it harder to avoid a traffic citation if a new bill filed in the Florida legislature passes. House Bill 849, which was filed Thursday, would allow school districts to equip their buses with cameras to record the license plates of drivers who pass buses while students are getting on or off.
"The lights will flash, the stop signs are out, and you'll see someone pass illegally," said Rob Spicker, a spokesman for the Lee County School District.
If it passes, the new law would also authorize police agencies to use the cameras as evidence to mail tickets to the offending drivers.
"It's something we're behind as long as it's well-thought out, well-funded, and is beneficial to the safety of our students," Spicker said.
For one day in each school year since at least 2011, the State of Florida has surveyed school bus drivers in school districts statewide on the issue of drivers passing buses illegally at bus stops.
"Last year we had over six hundred drivers, in one day, pass buses illegally (in Lee County)," Spicker said. "The year before that it was over 900 illegal passes in one day. So that could be happening every single day. Every person going by that bus is putting our students at risk."
He said it would cost around five hundred thousand dollars to to get the cameras on all of Lee County's approximately nine hundred buses. While the priority is student safety, he said the proposed bill has the potential to generate millions in revenue.
"Say it's happening six hundred times a day," Spicker said. "At two hundred dollars a ticket, a hundred and eighty days of school, it's about twenty-one million dollars. About forty percent would come to the school district, around eight-point-six million."
If it passes, the new law would take effect on October 1.