LAKEWOOD, Colo. — Bad drivers take notice and bullies, too. You're being watched with new high definition cameras.
Jeffco Public Schools is spending $1.4 million to replace the aging camera system on the district's school buses.
The new, state-of-the-art system includes seven high definition cameras on each bus: four inside and, for the first time, three outside.
"The priority is seeing what's going on inside the bus, any bullying," said Clint Bryer, sales manager for Safety Vision, the company installing the system.
Bryer said the new exterior cameras will allow district officials to monitor activities outside the bus, including stop arm violations.
Greg Jackson, the executive director of Transportation and Fleet Services, said Jeffco has seen a 10% increase in stop arm violations each of the last two years.
"We just see more impatience," Jackson said. "People will drive up to a bus. They're in a rush. They'll sit there and say, 'you know what? I can get through this,' and they blow on through."
One bus driver, who asked to remain anonymous, said stop sign runners are a common occurrence.
"I probably have three a week," he said. "I've had drivers wave at me while they're running [the stop arm.]"
Jackson said he's not aware of any students getting hit, but adds there have been some very close calls. He recalled one instance where a student stepped off the bus and started walking in front to cross the street. He said the driver got the student's attention just before he stepped out into traffic, "and motioned for him to stop using hand signals."
Bryer said the new, high-tech system means drivers can focus on kids and not looking at license plates, or getting a description of the offending car or driver. He said the cameras, which are all synced, will capture the needed information.
If there is an incident, he said, "and all you know is where something took place, you can click on that location on the map, and all seven cameras will jump right to that particular part of the video."
Jackson said the exterior camera on the right side of the bus will capture events happening at the entrance and at bus stops.
He said the exterior camera on the left side of the bus will show when the stop arm is extended and when drivers are approaching, running through the stop sign and driving away.
Bryer said cameras on the inside are just as important. He said students may make up stories, so having the truth on video can help drivers keep their jobs.
Jeffco has more than 300 buses, which are being upgraded in three separate phases. The district will spend $440,000 during the first phase, which will outfit a third of the buses in 2021.