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Fairfax County officials are considering adding cameras to school buses that will catch drivers illegally passing buses that have their lights on and stop sign out.

The City of Falls Church and Montgomery County, Md., have recently approved installing such systems on their school bus fleets.

“This is a very serious safety issue that irritates me more than just about any other complaint coming in to my office,” said Supervisor John Foust (D-Dranesville), who proposed the measure at Tuesday’s Board of Supervisors meeting. He said he can’t understand drivers who put the safety of children at risk.

Foust said police are responsive to complaints from parents and bus drivers; however, it is difficult for officers to combat the problem through citations.

Fairfax County Public Schools transports about 110,000 students each day on its fleet of 1,520 school buses.

In an annual survey earlier this year, bus drivers throughout Virginia reported more than 1,800 instances of drivers illegally passing stopped buses in a single day. There were 1,869 bus drivers participating in the survey, according to the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services, which coordinates the nationwide count.

The monitoring system is activated when the school bus extends its stop arm and then can automatically detect when a vehicle passes the stopped school bus. Using high-resolution cameras, the system takes a photo of the vehicle’s license plate as well as video of the violation that can be used to ticket violators.

“I think this is the right thing to do, and I think it is horrible that we have people violating the passing of stopped school buses,” said board Chairwoman Sharon Bulova (D-At large). “My only concern is cost; who pays?”

Foust said the system Falls Church is using includes no up-front costs and all costs will be recovered via the fines charged to drivers who violate the law.

The board’s action Tuesday requires county staff to work with Fairfax County Public Schools to determine whether such a system could be implemented in Fairfax County and what costs, if any, there would be. The board will receive a report back from staff at a later date.

kschumitz@fairfaxtimes.com