Tri-Valley's new stop sign cameras catch school bus violators

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Tri-Valley School District, SD (KSFY) The Tri-Valley School District has a new addition on all of its buses designed to ensure everyone makes it home safely.

“We're a very rural district, over 80 percent of our kids ride the school bus every day,” Tri-Valley Superintendent Mike Lodmel said.

That’s nearly 800 students entering and exiting the bus along the rural roadways in the school district.

“Last year we had a patron come to us that told us their child had almost gotten hit by a vehicle,” Lodmel said.

It happened when a driver flew by the bus while the stop sign arm was extended; something bus drivers say happens fairly frequently.

“High speeds, low speeds, there’s no rhyme or reason to it, nobody wants to wait for the school bus, so that's why the stop arm cameras are becoming more popular,” Driver Josh Brust with Forman Sales and Service said.

Brust says every time it happens he worries about the safety of the children that are in his care.

“The danger is very obvious,” Brust said. “If the stop arm is out, there's either a child getting on the bus or off the bus, if someone goes through the stop arm, there's a very strong possibly they could strike a child.”

This year the Tri-Valley School District spent $10,000 on cameras secured to the outside of every bus.

“This one's primary job is to get the license plate number off the vehicle, the one on the back is to get a very good picture of the whole vehicle as it drives through,” Brust said.

“The cameras are very detailed, very clear,” Ladmill said.

Lodmel says its concrete evidence that is sent to the Minnehaha County state’s attorney for prosecution. The State's attorney’s office says drivers caught on camera will likely face a civil penalty of $250 but criminal charges with steeper fines could also be applied.

“We’re just getting the word out to people that we have these, we don't want to see people get in trouble, but we do want to protect our kids, and passing school buses that are stopped with the arm out, red lights flashing, is not safe for our kids,” Lodmel said.

The Tri-Valley School District has already seen four violations in the first four days of school with these new cameras. The district hopes all drivers in the area will soon learn to stop every time they see a school bus with flashing lights out on the road.