Willoughby-Eastlake schools add cameras to buses that detect sudden movements

EASTLAKE, Ohio-- New camera systems are being installed on all 90 school buses in the Willoughby-Eastlake City School District.

The Lytx cameras will be located on bus windshields with a forward-facing and rear-facing lens.

They are automatically triggered by g-forces created by sudden movements, such as a sudden stop, turn or acceleration, and capture the 8 seconds prior to and 4 seconds after the event.

Drivers can also push a button to manually activate the cameras to record, for instance, a driver illegally passing a stopped school bus or an accident.

The district contracts with Petermann Bus to provide transportation services. John Rinehart, the Petermann General Manager who oversees busing in the district, said a third-party company will review footage of all events that trigger the cameras and will then pass along to him valuable or relevant information related to bus drivers' actions. He said he can then use that information to train and coach the drivers.

"If it's an egregious offense, then we would take appropriate actions, but the goal is not to use this as a hammer but as a tool so we all get better," Rinehart said.

"This actually tells me first hand, hey, he's stopping too hard or turning too hard, and so you're able to coach and pretty much give immediate feedback."

The new system is in addition to the buses' Seon camera system, the three cameras that record the inside of each school bus, and Zonar, a GPS system which enables tracking of bus speeds and locations.

Rinehart said Petermann is installing the Lytx cameras in its nationwide fleet of school buses following a 2016 bus crash in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which killed six students.

He said he advocated for Willoughby-Eastlake to be the first district in the state to receive the cameras after a driver illegally passed a stopped bus in Willowick in May, hitting two children who were crossing the street.

"We were not able to capture the license plate because the cameras that are inside (the bus) don't see well outside," he said. "This would've caught that. They would've been able to make the arrest sooner."

Rinehart said he plans to provide police with footage of drivers illegally passing stopped buses.

Dawn Alberts's son, Mason, was one of the students who was hurt.

"It's a great first step," Alberts said of the cameras. She said she hopes the cameras make drivers think twice before putting children in danger. "I would certainly hope that it would deter someone from even thinking about passing a bus."

District superintendent Steve Thompson said he thinks the technology on the buses will deter problems.

"All of those things, I think, help us make the environment safer for our kids, and that's the bottom line," he said.

Rinehart said the cameras are expected to be installed on all buses by next week and will start being used soon after.

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