COVINGTON -- The Newton County Sheriff's Office has been looking over film and photos taken during Newton County School System's bus stops since the first of the week and has already identified six offenders who ran through the stop signs the bus exhibits during stops, according to NCSO Public Information Officer Deputy Courtney Morrison.
Those individuals should expect a citation in the mail, Morrison said.
The Sheriff's Office and the school system officially launched the school bus stop enforcement program Monday. Twenty-five of the school system's buses are outfitted with high-resolution cameras, supplied and operated by American Traffic Solutions. These cameras will capture photos and video of motorists who illegally pass school buses while students are boarding or disembarking.
Motorists failing to stop for school buses has proven to be a problem throughout the area and is one experts say needs to be corrected for the safety of students.
"As part of a nationwide survey conducted earlier this year, bus drivers in Newton County reported 88 school bus stop violations in a single day," said Michael Barr, director of support services for the school system.
The launching of the photo enforcement program in Newton County closely followed the unveiling of the statewide "Stop Means Stop" campaign, an initiative of the Governor's Office of Highway Safety and the Georgia Department of Education to raise awareness about traffic laws prohibiting motorists from passing school buses when the red flashing lights on buses are activated.
"We are optimistic the launch of the photo enforcement program locally and the statewide public awareness campaign will significantly reduce the number of violations that occur each day," Barr said.
Each day the American Traffic Solutions program identifies any act that triggers the activation of a camera during a school bus stop. The information is sent electronically to the NCSO and a deputy then reviews the tape to make sure that, in fact, an infraction has occurred.
Morrison said this week there were nine instances in which the system identified infractions, but a closer review showed that the safety arm on the bus was not being activated appropriately.
"The bus driver wasn't activating the bus arm in a timely manner," Morrison said. "Once a vehicle is at a certain point, it has to keep going."
Morrison said when the camera is activated, it takes pictures of the offending vehicle's license plate and the vehicle itself as it passes.
Morrison stressed the goal of the operation was not just to "catch" people.
"We don't want to just issue citations to issue citations. Our main focus is public awareness and safety for the students, but we want citizens to be aware that if they do run the stop arm, they will receive a citation," she said.
In Georgia the penalty for a violation captured by these cameras is $300 for the first violation; $750 for the second violation; and a third violation within a five-year period will result in a $1,000 fine.
NCSS has entered into a five-year agreement with American Traffic Solutions and the NCSO for the implementation of the bus photo enforcement program.
Citizen reporter Michelle Floyd contributed to this article.