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Ashley Puchalski Thomas

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Updated Process for Enforcement of Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Program

Ashley J. Puchalski, Esq. apuchalski@tuckerlaw.com, (412) 594-5509

Pennsylvania law requires motorists coming from any direction to stop at least ten (10) feet from a school bus with its lights flashing and stop-arm sign extended. Unfortunately, data suggests that many motorists fail to follow those requirements, supporting the need for legislation to enforce the law and increase safety for school children across the state.

On October 23, 2023, Governor Shapiro signed Act 19 of 2023 (“Act 19 or the Act”) into law, which re-
authorized Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stop-Arm Camera Program. As a general matter, the Act permits school districts to install and operate automated camera systems on school bus stop-arms that photograph drivers illegally passing stopped school buses. School districts have the option to partner with third-party vendors who install the automated camera systems on the school bus stop-arms, and they are also required to enter into an agreement with their local police department to certify all violations caught on camera. If the local police department issues a violation, the violator will be required to pay a $300 fine of which $250 is paid to the school district or the school district’s third-party vendor, $25 is paid to the local police department that reviewed the violation, and the remaining $25 is paid to PennDOT for the School Bus Safety Grant Program. However, the Act prohibits third-party vendors from requiring school districts to issue a certain number of fines as part of their contract.

On March 6, 2024, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (“PennDOT”) published updated program guidelines which include instructions for school districts and third-party vendors regarding the hearing process and other key reminders related to the program. Prior to the adoption of the Act and the new PennDOT regulations, violators could contest a violation by requesting a hearing with the magisterial district where the violation occurred. However, violators are now able to contest liability and request a hearing before a PennDOT hearing officer rat no cost to them. If the violator is not satisfied with the hearing officer’s decision, they can appeal to the district magisterial judge.

The Act also requires additional transparency in the form of a mandatory annual report. This means that school districts (or third-party vendors on the school district’s behalf) who have installed stop-arm cameras must submit an annual report to PennDOT and the Pennsylvania State Police by July 1 of each year. The reports must include the following information:

1) The name of the system administrator;

2) the number of school buses equipped with a side stop signal arm enforcement system;

3) the number of notices of violation issued;

4) the amount of fines imposed and collected;

5) the amounts paid under agreements authorized under the law;

6) the results of contested violations; and

7) use of additional revenue funds and any grants awarded from the program.

For more information, contact Ashley Puchalski at (412) 594-5509 or at apuchalski@tuckerlaw.com.

June 04, 2024

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