School bus enforcement cameras delayed in Montgomery County

“There he goes,” says Todd Watkins, staring a computer screen. “No regard at all.”

Watkins is the Montgomery County Public Schools Transportation Director. During an interview with NewsChannel 8, Watkins shows surveillance video of dozens of cars whipping by school buses -- despite blinking stop signs.

“Our drivers are watching for this kind of behavior because we know it happens so often,” Watkins says. A pilot camera program helps bus drivers keep track of how many cars pass, but the cameras do little to enforce the law.

Unlike speed and red light cameras, small lenses affixed to the side of many school buses can’t issue an automatic ticket.

“The current ones are of no enforcement value at all,” Watkins says.

Roughly eighteen months ago, county officials passed a law to put automatic enforcement cameras on school buses to catch reckless drivers. But those cameras still have yet to be installed.

“We have since found out, almost a year and a half later, that the request for proposal that was supposed to go through the county executive’s office still has not been done,” says Democratic Councilwoman Valerie Ervin.

Montgomery County is the lead agency for implementing the cameras.

"We are still working on formalizing the process and need to wait until it’s approved through the proper channels," Montgomery County police say.

But, the executive branch says failed attempts to expand existing contracts with other traffic camera vendors is holding them up.

Patrick Lacefield, a spokesman for Leggett, says: “There have been legal and contractual issues that have unduly delayed implementation of a program that should not have taken this long. We are working to accelerate the process and get to the installation phase as soon as practicable." Lacefield adds there is still no time frame for implementation.

Back at Watkins’ office, the issue is glaringly obvious.

“What we need is a much higher technology camera that has a much high resolution so that it detects the images themselves and marks them to be a ticket,” Watkins says.

Donna Bigler, another representative of the County Executive’s office, adds that officials have sent a Memorandum of Understanding to the school system and is waiting for a response. Officials have also drafted regulations that will be available for public comment in October.