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Oregon Legislature passes school bus camera bill targeting errant drivers

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The Oregon Legislature passed a bill that allows school buses to have cameras that police can use to cite drivers who illegally pass buses. (Jon Cherry/Getty Images) Getty Images

BY: BEN BOTKIN – MARCH 5, 2024 || OREGON CAPITAL CHRONICLE

The Oregon Legislature on Tuesday passed a bill that would allow school districts to install cameras on school buses so police can ticket drivers who fail to stop for school buses that are transporting children.

The Senate passed House Bill 4147 with a 26-4 bipartisan vote. The measure, which has already passed the House, goes to Gov. Tina Kotek’s desk.

Under the proposal, a driver who passes a stopped school bus with flashing red lights would face a fine of up to $2,000, the maximum for a traffic violation, and school districts could share camera footage with law enforcement to ticket drivers.

“Too many drivers are disregarding their duty to stop and protect kids getting on and off the school bus,” said Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland and a sponsor of the bill who presented it on the Senate floor. “It’s clear that we need more accountability to protect our students.”

Oregon school bus drivers reported about 1,400 incidents of drivers illegally passing them in a 2023 report that surveyed drivers for just one day. The 2023 report from the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, a school bus driver organization, found more than 62,000 violations in a single day nationwide.

A junior at Wilsonville High School, Sean Sype, saw another student nearly get struck and potentially killed while exiting a school bus as a driver careened by, ignoring the law. The student’s concerns caught the attention of Rep. Courtney Neron, D-Wilsonville, who introduced House Bill 4147.

The bill passed the House with a bipartisan 49-5 vote.

The bill has no funding so if school districts decide to add cameras, they’ll have to pay for them. About two dozen states, including Washington and Idaho, already have similar laws, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Ben Botkin  Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.

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