Connecticut General Assembly Considering Adding Cameras to School Buses

The Connecticut General Assembly has several proposed bills on its agenda this legislative session, including one that would authorize school districts to install video cameras on school buses.

HB 6449 would allow municipalities to equip school buses with "live digital video school bus violation detection monitoring systems" to enforce state traffic laws requiring motor vehicles to stop for school buses.

Under CGS §14-279, Connecticut motorists are required to stop at least 10 feet from a school bus when approaching from the front or behind the bus when it has its flashing red lights on. The law also prohibits motorists from turning at an intersection onto a road a stopped school bus is on when people are entering or exiting the bus. Drivers are not permitted to continue on their way until the bus's red lights have stopped flashing.

Those who violate the bus laws face a $100 to $500 fine for the first offense.

Some drivers, however, fail to follow this law and the results can be devastating. In recent years, there have been several motor vehicle accidents in other states in which a child has been struck and killed while boarding or disembarking from a school bus. So far, Connecticut has been lucky that none of these horrible accidents have happened here, but with some motorists ignoring this important traffic law, it may only be a matter of time.

The monitoring systems are meant to remind drivers of their obligations to stop for school buses and to catch those who violate the law. The systems would produce a live video feed and take recorded digital photographs of the license plates of vehicles that violate §14-279. The cameras would not capture any images of the occupants in the vehicle or other vehicles or people in the area.

Evidence collected from the monitoring devices then would be turned over to the police, who would review it and determine whether to issue a citation. In cases where the police believed a violation had occurred, a summons would be mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle within 10 days of the offense. The proposed law would require the police to include at least two digital photographs of the vehicle's plates to the owner with the summons.

Buses with the monitoring systems also would be required to have a warning posted on them alerting drivers of the presence of the video cameras.

If the bill becomes law, it would go into effect this summer on July 1.

Other Public Safety Bills Up for Consideration

Some of the other bills considered by the General Assembly this term that will have an impact on public safety include:

• HB 5103 - Annual vehicle safety inspections

This bill would require Connecticut drivers to have their vehicles undergo a safety inspection each year as a precondition to registering their vehicles in the state. The inspection would include "mud flaps, lights, windshield wipers, windows" and other parts of the vehicle.

The proposed legislation has an effective date of October 1, 2011 and all cars registered on or after this date would be required to have the safety inspection this year. By October 1, 2012, all cars in Connecticut would have to have safety inspections before residents would be able to register their vehicles and get new license plate tags.

• SB 1050 - Mandatory defibrillators in health care facilities

This proposed law would require dialysis centers, outpatient surgery centers and residential care homes to have at least one automatic external defibrillator on site in order to receive state licensing or licensing renewal.

It also would require assisted living centers to prove to the Department of Public Health that they have a sufficient number of defibrillators on site, which may mean these facilities would have to have more than one.

To ensure not only that these health care facilities have the defibrillators, but also that their personnel know how to use them, the proposed legislation also would require these facilities to train their employees on proper usage of the devices and how to administer CPR.

Lastly, the bill would require medical facilities to develop an emergency action plan by July 1, 2012 that addresses how employees should respond if a person has a heart attack or suffers another life-threatening condition while at the facility.

If passed, the bill would go into effect on October 1, 2011.