Citations spiked early this year for drivers accused of passing school buses while students are getting on or off.
Cody School District transportation director Sam Hummel said a new state law and stop arms with attached quality video cameras have made it easier to fine offenders. However he and patrol officers would prefer people simply obey the law.
“We’re just requesting the public pay more attention,” said Lt. Jason Stafford with the Cody Police Department. “When the red lights go on, (drivers) need to stop.”
The Wyoming Legislature passed a law last session that went into effect July 1 that allows law enforcement to use the video school buses capture of vehicles disobeying their stop arms to write citations.
School buses typically have a camera on them that is activated along with its stop arm. The video it captures can now be used by law enforcement to issue tickets.
Before, an officer had to witness the event or try to follow up with a license plate number given by a bus driver.
Now, even if the driver was unable to be identified in the video, a $195 citation is issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, according to state statute.
Stafford said it just requires the officer to view the video footage provided by the district and catch a license plate, which he said generally isn’t a problem due to the quality of the cameras.
The registered owner can contest the ticket if they didn’t give the driver who violated the stop arm permission to use their vehicle, or if the car’s ownership transferred to a new owner prior to the violation, according to state law.
Stafford said the law change makes it more likely people will clearly understand just what the law is.
“I think there’s a misconception out there that if there’s four lanes, even if you’re on the outside lane you need to stop,” Stafford said.
Before the red lights are on and the bus is stopped, cars are allowed to pass, but once the lights turn on the video camera is set to record a passing motorist.
The law says if the bus is stopped on one side of a divided median (barrier) that vehicles on the other side of the median can continue, but there are no such streets in Cody.
A four lane street, Big Horn Avenue, has been the site of a fair number of the citations, but drivers have passed inappropriately in areas all over town.
“It’s a little bit of everywhere,” Stafford said. “I think people just need to be aware, especially right before and right after school.”
(Wyoming News Exchange contributed to this report)