Lawmakers willing to help constituents solve problems with school bus camera tickets

Local lawmakers say they’re hearing from concerned constituents, who feel they’ve been wronged by tickets alleging they passed a stopped school bus and put kids’ lives in danger. These automated school bus cameras, owned and installed by the company, BusPatrol, are rolling on Pittsburgh Public School buses and in East Allegheny and McKeesport schools districts. Dozens of drivers have reached out to 11 Investigates, furious about these tickets - some are calling them a “money grab.”

>> 11 Investigates viewer complaints about school bus cameras wrongly ticketing people

Legislators say they understand the concerns people have and they’re willing to help find a solution. State Rep. La’Tasha D. Mayes (D), represents Pennsylvania’s 24th district.

“My office has received quite a few complaints about the tickets,” she tells 11 Investigates. “It sounds like more people than not feel that they’ve been wronged in this process.”

>> District justice raises concerns about school bus camera citations, lawmaker calls for review

Rep. Mayes says some angry and frustrated folks believe they’re being used to make money for Pittsburgh Public Schools.

“We cannot do that on the backs of folks, everyday folks, everyday parents, everyday working people who certainly are trying to make ends meet,” Rep. Mayes adds.

Representative Mayes’ district covers a large section of the city of Pittsburgh, including, but not limited to:

The Hill District, Garfield, East Liberty, Larimer, Lincoln-Lemington-Belmar, Homewood and East Hills.

“People are struggling economically in my district and across the region,” Rep. Mayes adds. “We can’t impose other economic or financial challenges in places where it can be helped, and in this situation, it can be helped.”

Some families in her district, like so many others, can’t afford a $300 ticket, or missing work or school to fight it. Rep. Mayes says while there was a pilot program, it’s time to refine the process.

>> $858,559 in revenue collected in first 6 months of automated school bus camera tickets

“Whether it’s an improvement in the technology, if it’s better education about what would be a violation, I think there are opportunities for the community - those who received tickets wrongfully,” Rep. Mayes added. “BusPatrol and the school district need to figure out how to resolve this. It is not going away.

State Senator, Lindsey Williams (D), represents Pennsylvania’s 38th district which includes part of Allegheny County. Sen. Williams says she and her colleagues in Harrisburg have been making improvements to the law and they’re open to additional changes.

“Getting rid of that $90 fee to appeal the ticket, getting a PennDOT officer to hear that, taking the burden off our magistrates and also being able to do it virtually over Zoom,” Sen. Williams said of the changes that have already been made. “We’re making it more accessible.”

We shared viewer concerns about drivers being ticketed for passing a bus as the stop arm comes out, or after it comes out. They say there’s nothing they can do to avoid being ticketed.

>> 11 Investigates digs into people wrongfully ticketed by automated cameras on school buses

“If we need to look at the technology and make sure the camera is clicking on when it’s supposed to be, those are things we should definitely look into,” Sen. Williams added.

Sen. Williams did add something she’s not in favor of:

“I’m not a great fan of a private entity having a piece of this, but unfortunately, when you have 50 near misses a day of children almost getting hit by vehicles, the school district is using the tools available and the technology available,” Sen. Williams added. “It’s not ideal, but what do you do as an alternative?”

Sen. Williams says the goal of this program is to stop people who are actually violating the law, cutting down on tickets that aren’t violations and changing dangerous driving behavior to keep our kids safe.

Sen. Williams said she wants to hear from her constituents as to what, if anything, needs to change once the hearings go to a PennDOT hearing officer, not a magistrate.

We do not have a date for when or where those hearings will take place. PennDOT says it will be getting back to 11 Investigates with those answers.

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