Safety is Tim Fosbrink’s No. 1 priority when it comes to transporting 4,400 students to and from school each day.
During a normal school year, that number would be more than 5,100, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are not riding the bus.
As director of transportation for Seymour Community School Corp., Fosbrink will utilize whatever means available to keep kids safe.
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One of the features that helps with his task is bus cameras.
Each of the 42 buses in Seymour’s fleet is supposed to be equipped with a working camera system that captures activity inside and outside the bus.
From students misbehaving to driver errors to motorists not driving carefully in the presence of a school bus, cameras allow Fosbrink to see what is happening on bus routes.
One of his biggest concerns is the alarming number of motorists who do not stop for buses when they are picking up or dropping off children.
In just 27 days, there have been 106 documented stop arm violations, Fosbrink said. That equals about four a day and is up around six more violations from the same time last year.
One of the biggest hot spots for stop arm violations is U.S. 31. That stretch of road alone has resulted in 26 violations.
“Distracted drivers are the No. 1 cause of stop arm violations,” Fosbrink said. “We all need to use extra caution around buses and bus stops because children will be close, and they don’t always pay attention.”
By investing in new camera systems, Fosbrink hopes to capture better footage of stop arm violators and be able to address other issues, improving safety for students and bus drivers.
Earlier this month, the school board waived the first reading of Fosbrink’s request and approved to spend $40,000 to purchase 10 new Gatekeeper camera systems to replace the same number of the older Safety Vision systems that no longer work.
Business manager Steve Nauman said the transportation department has enough money in its budget after purchasing buses for this year to pay for the new camera systems.
Besides paying for the 10 systems and installation, some of the money is going to purchase extra hard drives used to store video and eight additional individual cameras.
“We have been looking at bus camera systems for several years,” Fosbrink told school board members. “Our current system is not providing us what we need.”
One of the big issues with the existing systems is service and maintenance, Fosbrink said.
Safety Vision is based out of Texas, and Fosbrink said trying to get service is expensive and difficult to schedule. He has been trying to get the 10 nonworking systems fixed since the beginning of summer but still has 10 buses without working cameras.
Although based in Delaware, Gatekeeper has a service center in Indiana and can schedule installations and maintenance much quicker, he said.
This year, the department purchased four Gatekeeper systems to test, and Fosbrink said it is a better system overall.
“They are doing an awesome job,” he said of the new cameras. “I believe this is the way to go.”
Instead of using six cameras, the new systems can run eight cameras and only cost about $120 more per system.
Also, the cameras have a wider camera angle and are able to zoom into greater distances than the old equipment and capture areas the old cameras aren’t able to, he added.
It may change the game for the school corporation when it comes to prosecuting stop arm violators.
Fosbrink plans to trade out the old systems for the new ones as funding allows.
“The zoom capabilities are something I’ve never seen on a bus camera,” he said. “The new system is giving us more cameras, better quality of video and a lot more coverage. It’s a whole bigger bang for the buck.”