- Associated Press - Sunday, June 28, 2015

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) - Nearly 60 percent of the school buses in Wyoming now have cameras to help catch motorists who illegally pass a stopped bus, and there are indications that the cameras might be dissuading the practice.

Of the 1,536 public school buses in Wyoming, 902 have been equipped with cameras, said David Koskelowski, education consultant for pupil transportation with the Wyoming Department of Education. “I believe at last check 23 of the 48 districts had at least a majority of their buses done,” Koskelowski said.

In 2014, the state Legislature approved $5 million to help school districts equip their buses with outside cameras to identify vehicles illegally passing a bus that is picking up or discharging students. Districts also can install cameras inside the bus to monitor student behavior.

Districts have tapped more than $2 million of the funds as of this month, Koskelowski said.

The effort to equip school buses with cameras was prompted by the 2011 death of an 11-year-old girl, who was struck and killed in Fremont County as she crossed a highway after getting off a school bus that had its flashing lights activated. The driver of the vehicle was convicted of several charges, including homicide by vehicle.

“In general, school districts around the country are finding an increased number of cameras, both on the buses and in the building, a very useful tool,” said Bruce Hayes, school safety consultant with the state Education Department.

For instance, cameras can record what happened in an incident and can discourage behavior that might cause an incident, Hayes said.

It’s too soon to say whether the bus cameras are making it safer for students getting on and off school buses, Koskelowski said.

He noted that there are public-service efforts to raise awareness about illegally passing stopped school buses, an action that is often referred to as a “fly-by.”

“I’d love to say that investment also contributed to the lower number of fly-bys,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve had it in place long enough for it to be a deterrent.”

There are some encouraging signs, however.

An annual one-day count of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses in Wyoming found 99 violators when the count was done on Feb. 11, he said. That is the lowest total ever recorded since the practice was started in 1999-2000 school year, Koskelowski said.

In 2011-12, the one-day count recorded 297 fly-bys, he said.

“But it’s just nice to think that we put cameras on the buses and that year that we did our data collection we had our lowest number of fly-bys,” Koskelowski said.

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