Comments on the School Bus Stop Arm Statute, § 40-6-163

State Representative Don Parsons, HD 44


Recently, there has been considerable coverage in the media regarding the “school bus stop arm camera” statute. I hope to clarify the issues that brought about the legislation that was enacted, and to also clarify some of the issues that have arisen regarding it over the last month.

In 2010, I was contacted by two constituents who were very concerned about school bus safety, especially the safety of children boarding and un-boarding school buses, as well as their safety while approaching and walking away from the bus. There had recently been a tragic fatality involving a child walking home after disembarking a school bus.

The two constituents, Sheri Lewis and Mandi Call, along with a Cobb school bus driver and a Cobb police officer pointed out to me that, Georgia law prescribes that “Every school bus driver who observes a violation of subsection (a) of this Code section is authorized and directed to record specifically the vehicle description, license number of the offending vehicle, and time and place of occurrence on forms furnished by the Department of Public Safety. Such report shall be submitted within 15 days of the occurrence of the violation to the local law enforcement agency which has law enforcement jurisdiction where the alleged offense occurred”. With all due respect to the abilities and diligence of school bus drivers, that does not seem to be a workable requirement to effectively identify violations of the safety of school children.

Except for violations that are observed by law enforcement, or by the identification of violations captured by video as detailed in the “school bus stop arm camera” statute that I sponsored, worked on for over a year, and eventually passed, the requirement for school bus drivers as described above is still the law. It is important to note that the “school bus stop arm camera” statute provides for voluntary participation by school districts. It does not mandate it.

The statute, § 40-6-163, provides that, “A school system may enter into an intergovernmental agreement with a local governing authority to offset expenses regarding the implementation and ongoing operation of video recording devices serving the purpose of capturing recorded images of motor vehicles unlawfully passing a school bus”. The statute does not require that the intergovernmental agreement provide for a contract with a third-party vendor. However, it provides for it, and the details of a contract with a third party by a local governing authority is left up to that local government. To my knowledge, the contacts in effect between local governing authorities and third-party vendors provide that the cameras and hardware for the buses are provided at little or no cost to the school districts, and a percentage of the revenue from the monetary penalties go to the third-party entities.

For the school systems, along with their local governing authorities that choose to enter an intergovernmental agreement as provided for in the statute, there is a fine of $300.00 for a first offense, $750.00 for a second offense, and $1,000.00 for each subsequent offense in a five-year period. The law enforcement agency authorized by the local government to enforce the provisions of this Code section is directed by the statute to send by regular mail addressed to the owner of the motor vehicle postmarked not later than ten days after the date of the alleged violation a citation, along with an image taken from the recorded image showing the vehicle involved in the violation. The statute states further that any court having jurisdiction over the violations have jurisdiction over cases arising from violations of the statute and are authorized to impose the civil monetary penalty.

The statute has been Georgia Law for seven years. School systems, especially larger metro ones including Cobb and Marietta chose to take advantage of the statute early on. For those school systems, the contracts with third-party entities through intergovernmental agreements with their local governments have been highly successful. I had heard of no issues until recently, and then only regarding Cobb County. It should be noted that the Cobb school system has not expressed any problems or issues regarding the statute.

In late December, the office of the Cobb County Attorney provided a list of issues that it had identified as problems within the statute that could prevent its proper enforcement. I began an effort to identify what might need to be done to tweek the statute to address the concerns that had been identified to me. Three of the office’s main concerns are as follows:

1.   Records of violations are stored by the third-party vendor in violation of state court guidelines.

2.   Notices of violations are mailed, per the statute, by regular mail.

3.   There is no language in the statute that prescribes what happens if the individual who violated the statute refuses to pay the monetary penalty.

Regarding point number one (1), it has been my belief that the issue of records is one that should be addressed by the local government, as the statute makes no mention of a third-party entity. Fortunately, that is no longer an issue. It was reported in the Saturday, February 10, 2018 edition of the Marietta Daily Journal that State Court Clerk Angie Davis is establishing procedures to keep the records.

Regarding points two (2) and three (3), I have legislation drawn up and ready to introduce this week of February 11, 2018 that addresses those concerns.

I will always be thankful to the two mothers of young school aged children, Sheri and Mandi who first met with me regarding the school bus stop arm issue that resulted in § 40-6-163. The safety and lives of the children of our county, and of our state, are too important and too precious for us as public servants, citizens and as parents and grandparents to ignore.


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