I-Team: Hundreds of RI drivers don't stop for students
In the back-to-school hustle and bustle, hundreds of Rhode Island drivers apparently aren't getting the message to stop for students.
NBC 10 recorded video of a driver in Providence cruising right by a school bus.
"They don't pay attention and they just go right through," said Terry Deveau with Ocean State Transit in East Providence.
Deveau has been driving school buses since 1978.
"One of the first things a driver usually does on the first day of school is to tell the children, stay on the side of the road until we tell you to cross, because stop sign doesn't mean stop to everybody," he said.
The NBC 10 I-Team looked at which communities issued the most tickets last year for failing to stop for a school bus.
Johnston and North Providence had 112 convictions. East Providence had 476 convictions.
In Providence, a whopping 834 drivers failed to stop for students.
But Cranston and Warwick had just one ticket each.
So why did some cities and towns have just a couple of violations, while others hand out hundreds? The answer comes down to proof. The communities with the most citations have cameras on the sides of their buses, installed by a private company to catch drivers in the act.
"There's cameras on the side of the bus that actually take a photo of the vehicle as it passes the bus when the stop sign is out and the flashing lights are on," said Capt. Robert Wall of the Rhode Island State Police.
Wall said troopers had 380 convictions statewide last year, using video from a company called Student Guardian.
School buses in Providence, North Providence, East Providence and Johnston also use the system.
Without the video Wall said it's tough to prove a driver hit the gas instead of braking for a bus.
"Some people may be impatient. Not wanting to wait," he said.
Tickets generate cash for Student Guardian, based in Arizona.
State law gives 75 percent of fines to the out-of-state company and 25 percent to cities and towns.
With fines of $300 to $500 for each instance, Providence drivers paid just under $1 million in the first three years.
But the company says cameras are installed on buses free of charge and fines cover the cost of operating the system.
Deveau hopes the cameras send a message.
"Word of mouth through the community, we're hoping that it's going to cut down on how many people go through the lights," he said.
"If it saves a child from being injured or worse, a fatal accident, it was definitely worth it."
Student Guardian told NBC 10 other Rhode Island school districts are considering adding the cameras, and 20 Connecticut school districts are already on board.