The cameras were installed after an elementary student was struck by a passing vehicle last year.



Exeter Township, PA —

Last year, Jalexi Lozado, 10, a Lorane Elementary School student, was struck and injured by a passing vehicle as she exited a school bus.

Now the Exeter School Board has taken steps to increase the safety of students by installing stop-arm cameras on 10 of its fleet of about 40 school buses. And additional funds are budgeted to add the new cameras, which cost $500 each, to another 20 buses.

Details about the cameras were introduced Tuesday during a presentation at the start of the school board’s workshop meeting.

Three violators have been caught passing buses with flashing red lights and extended stop signs since the cameras were installed last month, said Benjamin L. Bernhart, assistant transportation supervisor.

“The violators were charged with a summary offense, said Sgt. Sean Fullerton, public information officer for the Exeter Police Department.

Act 1098, which legalizes the use of cameras installed on buses’ stop arms, also provides additional penalties, including a 60-day suspension of the driver’s license for those who fail to stop for a school bus with flashing red lights.

Bernhart showed a video captured by one of the new cameras. In the video, a car can be seen passing a school bus with extended stop signs and flashing lights.

The make, model, color and license plate of the vehicle were clearly recorded by the camera. On school buses without the cameras, the bus drivers are responsible for gathering as much of this information as possible, Fullerton said.

Bernhart compared a photograph taken from the video of the passing vehicle to a widely publicized photograph of the SUV that struck Jalexi in October and continued driving. That photo, also extracted from video, was recorded by the bus’ forward-facing camera. The make and model of the SUV, believed to be an Acura MDX, is difficult to determine and only part of the license plate can be seen.

Fullerton said the violator in that case has not been caught despite police efforts.

“We ran every Acura MDX in the state and there was no match (to the license plate),” he said after the meeting.

Bernhart’s presentation impressed school board member James Brady, who asked what the board must do to have cameras installed on all buses.

“Take a vote,” said Dr. Robert E. Phillips, superintendent.

Buses on the highest-impact routes were chosen for the first camera installations, Phillips said, noting it is impossible for drivers to tell which of the buses have the cameras.

Bernhart said stop-arm cameras will be required on all buses transporting Exeter students should the district opt to contract for student transportation.

The district’s transportation committee is exploring contracting options.

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