Local schools plan to implement new AI tech to keep kids safe on school buses

A flashing red light on a school bus is a direct signal to the driver to stop. Unfortunately, however, every school bus driver knows the fear of dropping a child off at their stop only to see traffic speeding past the bus’s stop sign and safety arm. Now, several local schools will use new technology to reduce the number of times motorists pass school buses illegally and put children at risk.

“A lot of people would rather hit the stop sign than stop for these kids,” said Wiley Lopez, a bus driver in Delaware County. “I hate it. That could be mine.” A child, and it could be your child.”

If there are no police around to ticket drivers, drivers can break bus laws time and time again, which is why Chichester schools, southeast Delaware counties and the Norristown area are turning to BusPatrol.

BusPatrol, a Virginia-based company, installs cameras on school buses that can read a bus driver’s license plate so they can be mailed a $300 ticket through an artificial intelligence technology called “Ava.”

“She was able to monitor up to eight lanes of traffic in all weather and lighting conditions,” said Jean Souliere, BusPatrol’s CEO. “We built the evidence package that was eventually submitted to law enforcement.”

The “package” includes video of the offender, so police can determine if the law has actually been violated. If police determine that the driver is breaking the law, BusPatrol will mail a $300 ticket to the registered owner of the offending vehicle.

Chichester Public Schools transport director Jim Stewart said he fully supported anything that would make students safer.

“Anything that makes it easier for kids to get on and off the bus is a good thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, there are too many tragic things happening across the country.”

BusPatrol said it is working with 20 school districts in Pennsylvania, including five in the Philadelphia area, to pay for outfitting the buses and make money by cutting fines for violators.

“There is absolutely no loss to the school district,” Souliere said. “100% of the cost of funding these programs falls entirely on those who violated the law.”

The plans will follow a public awareness campaign that will educate motorists about bus safety laws and teach children safe tips for getting on and off buses. School officials in Chichester say they plan to start using BusPatrol technology in early 2023.

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