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11 Investigates viewer complaints about school bus cameras wrongly ticketing people

PITTSBURGH — Safety on the roads is of critical importance when protecting kids and school buses.

But now, Pittsburgh Public School buses are using automated cameras that send tickets and our viewers say they’re not working.

“I think the system was designed to make money,” Lance Duggar tells 11 Investigates.

Lance Dugger is talking about BusPatrol, the AI-powered school bus camera system that Pittsburgh Public Schools now has on all of its buses.  It tickets drivers for illegally passing buses while their red lights are flashing.

Dugger says he had a different experience.

“I might use stronger language like ‘robbing’ or ‘ripping off’ or ‘scamming,’” Dugger said.

He got a $300 violation in the mail and said he was so surprised, he thought it was a scam. He was able to go online and look at the video footage showing his “violation.” The video showed he didn’t pass the bus on Brownsville Road while the red lights were flashing, so he went to court and won.

BusPatrol says a Pittsburgh Public Police officer looks at the video before a citation is actually mailed out. Dugger says, based on what he saw, he’s not sure anyone reviewed his case. And it came with court costs he said he had to pay for in cash.

“$90. I don’t have 90 dollars to give away,” he said.

If drivers assume guilt, the fines are costly, including up to a:

  • $300 citation
  • 5 points on your license
  • 60-day license suspension

Jay Beeber is the Executive Director of policy for the National Motorists’ Association. He did an analysis of automated school bus ticketing cameras across the country.

“It’s absolutely a money grab for the companies,” Beeber said.

He says BusPatrol, which has cameras in districts across the country, makes a profit. So does Pittsburgh public, which also gets part of the money.

“We should never have the system where the ticketing person profits from it,” Beeber added.

Beeber mentioned many of the flaws in the system, including tickets being issued even when kids aren’t on the bus, or if the driver forgets to turn off the lights. He says there are so many cases when the cameras pick up a car driving by just as the stop arm is extended or as it folds in.

If you have been issued a citation from BusPatrol and you believe it’s in error, please reach out to ahudak@wpxi.com

We also reached out to Pittsburgh Public Schools and BusPatrol.  Their full statements are below:

Pittsburgh Public Schools:

“The safety of our students is a top priority and keeping students safe is multifaceted. Our safety initiative with BusPatrol seeks to curb dangerous motorist behavior around school buses that put students in danger as they travel to and from school. As School Police support our efforts to keep students safe, ensuring violators who pass the stop arm do not reoffend bolsters our efforts. School Police manually review and approve the violations captured by BusPatrol cameras. If the charges are dropped at the Magistrate, individuals can get the court costs returned to them from BusPatrol.”

Jason Elan, Spokesman for BusPatrol America:

“Every potential violation that is captured on a stop-arm camera is diligently reviewed using artificial intelligence and our well-trained quality assurance team before it even finds its way to a law enforcement officer to make a final determination. This system of checks and balances ensures a sense of fairness and accountability, and it’s no wonder that the overwhelming majority of violators that receive a ticket never reoffend again.”A system claiming to make school buses safer might have a bug.

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