Michigan Lawmaker Proposes Using School Buses for Traffic Enforcement

Published March 30, 2016

A Michigan lawmaker has proposed a bill that would allow Detroit government school buses to serve as mobile traffic enforcement cameras, which he says will help boost revenue for Detroit Public Schools (DPS), the city government’s financially distressed school system.

In March, state Sen. Bert Johnson (D-Highland Park) introduced Senate Bill 852, which would allow DPS to help collect traffic fines using traffic cameras mounted on school buses. Under the proposed law, the owner of a car whose driver illegally passed a school bus unloading or picking up children would be fined between $300 and $1,000, depending on the number of previous offenses associated with the vehicle’s owner.

Detroit Public Schools would get to keep most of the revenue from the traffic fine collections, with a portion being diverted to a private contracting business that would be responsible for operating the camera system.

Johnson did not return calls or e-mails made by Michigan Capital Confidential reporters seeking comment.

‘Pure Money Grab’

Jim Walker, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, says the true purpose of the bill is to raise more money, not improve children’s safety.

“It’s a pure money grab,” Walker said. “It’s about money. What they are trying to prevent is extremely rare.”

Walker says National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data show buses are more dangerous to children and pedestrians than cars.

From 1999 to 2013, there was an average of 3.53 child pedestrian fatalities per year caused by vehicles passing stopped school buses in the United States. During that same time, an average of 9.13 child pedestrian fatalities per year were caused by school buses.

An Old Idea

In 2015, state Sens. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) and Geoff Hansen (R-Hart) introduced Senate Bill 183, which would have allowed any local government to mount automated ticket-issuing cameras on school buses.

Similar to SB 852, SB 183 was referred to the state’s Senate Transportation Committee, but no action was taken.

Tom Gantert ([email protected]) is a senior capitol correspondent for Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. An earlier version of this article appeared at http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/22247/. Reprinted with permission.