News Story

Bill Would Let Detroit Schools Collect Automated 'Photocop' Traffic Fines

A Democratic state senator has introduced a bill to let Detroit Public Schools collect traffic fines from tickets issued by automated “photo-cop” cameras attached to school buses.

The owner of a car whose driver illegally passed a school bus that was unloading or picking up children would be subject to a $300 fine, rising to $1,000 for the third and subsequent offenses. The fiscally troubled school district would get to keep the fine revenue, less a portion that would go to the private vendor contracted to operate the system.

Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park, introduced Senate Bill 852 on March 10. Johnson didn’t return a call left at his office or an email seeking comment.

“It’s a pure money grab,” said Jim Walker, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association. “It’s about money. What they are trying to prevent is extremely rare.”

Walker compiled data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that show that when it comes to pedestrians who are children, more deaths are caused by buses than by passing vehicles.

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

Last year, Republican Senators Rick Jones and Goeff Hansen introduced Senate Bill 183 to allow any local government, not just Detroit schools, to put automated ticket-issuing cameras on school buses. Like the new bill, that one was referred to the Senate Transportation committee, which has taken no action.

Since 2006, at least 10 bills have been introduced proposing automated ticket-writing cameras for various violations, including speeding near schools and not stopping at a red light. (Three bills have also been introduced that would place a ban on the devices in Michigan law.)

The Detroit school district is on the brink of bankruptcy. Gov. Rick Snyder has pitched a $715 million bailout of Detroit Public Schools that the Legislature is considering.