Video Surveillance for School Buses
School buses. Their distinctive yellow color and flashing lights are ubiquitous aspects of the morning landscape, and bumping around in their brown vinyl seats is a universal rite of passage. Charged with transporting millions of children to and from school each year, it's only natural that safety is an essential element of a school bus. Video surveillance is a great safety tool for school buses – and not just for keeping children safe.
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Benefits of School Bus Surveillance
Protect children – It's inevitable that the rambunctious and energetic nature of children will sometimes override the safety rules of the bus. Surveillance cameras can give bus driver the proverbial “eyes in the back of the head,” and allow them to keep children in check while navigating the route to or from school.
Protect bus – Because of their precious cargo, a special set of traffic rules exists for both school bus drivers and other motorists (ex: motorists must stop when school buses are boarding riders or letting them off, buses must stop completely at railroad crossings, whether the barriers are down or not). Consequences for violating these rules can be dire, and therefore fines are steep. Surveillance cameras pointed outside buses can help identify motorists who illegally pass buses, or identify driver erratic and dangerous driver behavior.
Remote monitoring – School buses have relied on surveillance cameras for many years, most commonly using an in-bus CCTV system complete with camera and recorder. Tapes would record the bus on its routes and be removed and reviewed at the end of the day. This process is helpful, but in case of emergency, immediate review of the tape was difficult at best. Thanks to developments with IP cameras and wireless networking, remote reviewing and instant response has become a possibility. A bus equipped with a wireless IP video system, operating in an area with a wireless “mesh” network, can immediately transmit footage of violations, making it easier to issue tickets to offending drivers.
Video Analytics – Like wireless video systems, video analytics is a technological advancement that could improve the efficiency of in-bus security camera systems. Using in-camera analytics, especially license plate technology, could be of valuable assistance to bus drivers who have problems with motorists. Instead of having to rely on memory or try to read a car's tag from surveillance footage (questions like “is that a O or a zero?” could complicate issues quickly), video analytics cameras programmed to recognize car license plate numbers could make catching violators much easier.
Build partnerships with local businesses – Often, the cost of installing modern, IP video surveillance systems in buses is prohibitively expensive for most school districts. However, there is a growing number of school districts that have partnered with local security firms to have cameras installed at a discounted price (or no price at all) in exchange for advertising, a portion of ticket revenues generated from the cameras, or some other profit-generating arrangement. This type of arrangement can benefit both schools and security firms, as it provides schools with solid, reliable security, and helps video surveillance installers spread the word about their business and technologies.
Risks of School Bus Security Cameras
- Damage – Surveillance cameras, especially when mounted on a bus' exterior, can be damaged by accidents, inclement weather, or just normal wear-and-tear.
- Over reliance – while it's a great security tool for school buses, video surveillance and security cameras cannot replace vigilance and awareness on behalf of the bus driver.
Considerations for School Bus Surveillance Systems
It's true that all school buses are the same color – the universal "School Bus Glossy Yellow" – but that does not mean that every school bus has the same security needs. There are a wide variety of factors that go into the selection and installation of a video surveillance system. Consider the following questions when designing a school bus surveillance system:
- What would you consider to be your most pressing security concern when it comes to school bus security?
- How many buses do you have?
- Have drivers had more problems with student behavior or with other motorists?
Tips for School Bus Security Camera Installation
- Cameras placed inside buses should be positioned so that every seat is within the camera's field of vision. Depending on the bus' layout, this may require more than one camera.
- Cameras aiming toward the road should at least be facing outward – towards the road ahead. Cameras can also be installed to cover bus blind spots and the rear