Rensselaer schools add cameras to school buses

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RENSSELAER – School Resource Officer Dalton Michaud watches over dismissal. Safety is a priority there, and now AI-powered cameras are being installed on Rensselaer school buses.

They record license plates of vehicles that illegally pass stopped school buses and send that, plus a video clip, to law enforcement.

“Every ticket that goes through is approved by hand by a live police officer in the city of Rensselaer for us, and we consider them out partners in safety,” said Rensselaer School Superintendent Joseph Kardash. “None of this would happen without our partners.”

The cameras come from a company called BusPatrol. The program is paid for by fines from violators, and does not cost the district or taxpayers. Supporters call it a win.

“Because it doesn’t cost us anything,” said Kardash. “The way that it’s set up, we have to do nothing, and we end up with cameras on our buses, and our kids are safer.”

It is a safety issue, and it happens more than you think. One exampled was a near-miss in Pittstown, when a car zoomed past a stopped school bus, almost hitting a child.

“Our intent is not to be sending out oodles of violations, but to educate drivers to stop when you see the red lights out on the bus,” said Rensselaer Police Chief Warren Famiglietti.

South Colonie was the first in Albany County to launch BusPatrol cameras late last year.

According to Albany County, in only one month, there were 923 violations, bringing in more than $92,000. That amount is 40% of the fines. The company gets the other 60%.

A first-time violation carries a fine of $250.

“You know the school bus drivers are great in helping cross the kids when it’s safe, but drivers need to understand that they have to stop when the stop arms are out,” said Chief Famiglietti.

“So we want to bring it to their attention – whether with flashing lights or fines and penalties – that they understand that you cannot pass a school bus,” said Rensselaer Mayor Michael Stammel.

There will be a warning period first before the fines begin.

Cameras are being installed in other school districts, including East Greenbush and Bethlehem.