BECKER (WJON News) - Minnesota is pumping another $2.9 million into school bus safety.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety – Office of Traffic Safety has announced phase three of the school bus stop arm camera program.

Dash cameras will now be supported thanks to a Phase 3 grant to Becker Public Schools. Photo by Jeff McMahon, WJON
Dash cameras will now be supported thanks to a Phase 3 grant to Becker Public Schools. Photo by Jeff McMahon, WJON
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Becker Public Schools has received phase three funding to increase camera capacity on its 31 school buses. Transportation Coordinator Tom Risley says they’re now able to put up to six cameras in each bus, including one watching the stop arm.

We put in for phase three because some of our systems were obsolete and cannot support the extra camera. I do not want to lose camera support inside the bus or at the entrance. So we have four cameras throughout inside the vehicle, I need to make sure that we keep that integrity as well. Once this phase three money and everything is done, we will have three or four inside and two outside.

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Becker Schools had applied for a phase one grant as well, which added additional camera heads in each bus. Now, Risley says the system eliminates any confusion in case of a stop arm violation.

I've been in the transportation industry for going on 35 years. And I've had a couple of violations that I've had to go to court with. That's where that camera catches everything.

Risley says the new exterior camera upgrades have already helped identify drivers who didn’t stop for school buses.

From the start of the school year, September 6 to the 16th, I reported two stop arm violations. And they were both found guilty with this new camera system.

The new camera system adds to a growing list of safety enhancements on modern school buses. Most new buses also boast crossing arms to help the driver see each child as they cross in front of the bus, as well as led lighting at eye level to alert other drivers that a bus has stopped.

Kim Spoden, dispatch and router for Becker Public Schools demonstrates the picture clarity of the new camera systems. Photo by Jeff McMahon, WJON.
Kim Spoden, dispatch and router for Becker Public Schools demonstrates the picture clarity of the new camera systems. Photo by Jeff McMahon, WJON.
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The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that 4,652 drivers have been cited for driving past a school bus with its flashing lights on since 2017. Drivers who violate the law can face a $500 fine.

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