Inoperable video camera hinders bus crash probe

Becky Campbell • Nov 21, 2012 at 6:05 PM

For the second time this school year, state traffic crash investigators won’t have video from a school bus to help with a school-related crash incident.

The most recent problem came to light after a vehicle hit a12-year-old girl on Tenn. Highway 81 South as the girl attempted to cross the road to get on the bus.

That happened around 6:30 a.m. Monday, according to Tennessee Highway Patrol Sgt. Diane Mays.

Mays and other investigators had hoped a video camera installed on the bus — which was not involved in the collision — would clear up conflicting information about the bus’ caution and stop mechanisms to alert drivers to stop.

But they discovered on Tuesday that the camera had stopped operating Sept. 14.

Assistant Director of Schools Susan Kiernan said the bus is equipped with a hard drive that is supposed to record when the bus is running.

But because the hard drive is secured under the dash inside a locked metal box, the bus driver can’t see any operational lights to ensure the device is recording.

“It is a concern for us. We want every bus to have a working camera,” Kiernan said.

Inoperable cameras first came up this school year after a Sept. 20 rollover bus crash on Mount Wesley Road that injured 26 students.

The camera on that bus, Bus 88, didn’t have a tape in it, officials said.

Kiernan said all of the school district’s buses have cameras. Some still have tape cameras, but newer buses come equipped with digital hard drives mounted in a secure box under the dash. The camera lens is mounted above the driver, she said.

“Since the accident in September we have had our transportation supervisor sit down with us and discuss the process we use,” to check camera function as well as a more efficient and frequent way to examine them.

“There’s no way for the driver to know if the camera is working (because) there’s not a visible light. We’ve been looking at the possibility of installing a light,” to solve the issue.

Traffic investigators have said the driver who hit the girl trying to cross the road said there were no warning lights indicating the bus was stopped.

The bus driver said she had already started opening the door, which automatically activates the flashing lights and extends the stop sign, officials said.

Kiernan said there was a year’s worth of recording on the bus’ hard drive and it showed the driver conducted required routine pre-route light checks and “her pattern of behavior the same where she put the lights on and put the sign out.”

The incident is still under investigation, according to the THP.

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