School board backs cameras for buses

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The Naugatuck Board of Education has given Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson the authority to negotiate and approve a contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems to install cameras on 20 percent of borough school buses. –RA ARCHIVE

NAUGATUCK — Cameras used in other districts to catch motorists passing stopped school buses could be on their way to Naugatuck.

The Board of Education on Thursday gave Superintendent of Schools John Tindall-Gibson the authority to negotiate and approve a contract with RedFlex Traffic Systems to install the cameras on 20 percent of borough school buses.

The plan must also meet the approval of the police department and the Board of Mayor and Burgesses, which could consider the matter early next month.

“Our entire goal has always been to keep kids safer,” said Alfred Cardi, regional sales director for RedFlex.

Student Transportation of America operates about 40 school buses in the borough, meaning the cameras would be installed on about eight buses. The company would install three high-resolution cameras on each of the chosen buses, which are able to monitor four lanes alongside the bus at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour, Cardi said.

Company workers monitor footage every time the bus pulls to a stop, catching video and still images of any vehicles that drive around the bus, Cardi said. The company issues tickets after approval by law enforcement officers, and violators face a $465 fine, Cardi said.

Most violators do not challenge the video evidence, but if they do they are convicted 98 percent of the time, Cardi said.

There would be no installation cost to the borough, but RedFlex would get about half the money from each ticket, Cardi said. Naugatuck would get about 27 percent and the state would get about 19 percent, according to Cardi’s estimates.

A dozen other districts in Connecticut, including Torrington and Wolcott, use the cameras, and the company also does business in six other states.

Drivers speeding around school buses are causing accidents nationwide, and about 20 children die every year as a result, Cardi said.

Cardi said the cameras would teach drivers to treat school buses like soccer balls. Most drivers slow down when they see soccer balls in the road, knowing a child will soon follow chasing it, he said.

“When people see a bus, they have a tendency to say, I really don’t want to get caught behind this, so I’m going to get around it,” Cardi said.

Tindall-Gibson expressed his approval of the program, and assistant business manager Robert Butler said borough police had not objected.

Ron Tymula, manager of the borough bus company, said bus drivers now fill out a form to report violators to the state Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Without the video, there has not been a really good record in the courts,” Tymula said.