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Schooled: drivers surprised they've been breaking the law

2 years 11 months 2 weeks ago January 31, 2014 Jan 31, 2014 Friday, January 31 2014 January 31, 2014 3:45 AM in The Investigative Unit
Source: WBRZ
By: Ryan Naquin

BATON ROUGE - Thousands of drivers are putting your kids in danger, according to state law.

For about a year, video recording devices have busted more than 3,500 people running the stop arm on side of East Baton Rouge school buses.

The sheriff's office reviews the evidence and issues the $300 tickets.

The School Bus Safety Program is on 240 of the more than 500 buses in the EBR Schools District.

"We're saving kids lives," FXS Force Multiplier Solution regional supervisor Casey Ponder said.

But some argue FXS, a Texas based company which installs and monitors the system, is profiting off a confusing law.

"The program knows what's going on. They know what the vulnerabilities in the law are, and that's being exploited," violator Mike Myers said.

Myers was caught running the stop arm on Old Hammond Hwy. traveling in the opposite direction of the bus.

Louisiana law states the only reason a car does not have to stop for a school bus stop signal is if there is a median or neutral ground between the driver and the bus.

Turning lanes or double yellow lines do not equal a median.

"I don't know what the law is whether there are five lanes if you need to stop or not," violator Larry Koenig said.

The seven-camera system recorded him going in the opposite direction passed a bus through a construction site on O'neal Lane. Koenig claimed he ran the stop because he could not see the flashing signal through traffic and a construction barrier.

"You've got to see it to stop and if you don't see the stop sign, you can't stop for it. People just aren't seeing it," Koenig said.

"It takes advantage of the confusion about the law, then it issues a $300 ticket after a school child almost gets hit by a passing motorist," Myers said. "It's a money making venture."

"What is one child's life worth?" Ponder responded when asked if the program is a money grab. "We have an emergency button on the bus. There is a speaker and a microphone on board. It's a lot more than just a ticketing program."

The system also includes GPS, three cameras inside to monitor kids and an extra camera in back to see if someone is following the bus. It's all at no cost to taxpayers.

FXS takes the 70 percent of the $300 fine, then the school board gets 20 percent and the sheriff's office gets the remaining ten percent.

The monitoring company has dumped $2.5 million into the program and collected a $250,000 so far into its five year agreement with the school district.

There's an appeal process. But if you ignore the penalty, a collection agency could put it against your credit.

 

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