Police use new Bridgman bus safety upgrades to crack down on drivers

NOW: Police use new Bridgman bus safety upgrades to crack down on drivers


Safety upgrades totaling $60 thousand were just added to Bridgman Public School District’s buses, and police say they’re already using those upgrades to crack down on dangerous drivers.

Bridgman is the first district in the county to invest in some of the upgrades. Adding new lights, cameras and safety tools added to every bus.

One of the new safety tools is called the Gardian Angel.

“It’s just an LED spot light. The students can see where they're walking in the morning when it's dark out, they have a better view. And hopefully the drivers coming in front of the bus and behind the bus can also see the students walking,” said Dave McIntyre, the mechanic for the district who installed all the new lights.

The Gardian Angel light is just one of multiple unique upgrades made to Bridgman buses. The $60,000 investment also added new LED red and yellow lights.

“The red and yellow lights are much more obvious now,” said Shane Peters, the district superintendent.

“The fraction of the second it takes for the LED to come on quicker equates to different reaction time,” said McIntyre. Who says he hopes the new lights help drivers see the bus and brake sooner.

But if they don’t, there are also cameras to catch them.

“We have both internal and exterior cameras on our buses for the safety and security of both our drivers and our students,” said Peters.

In total, six cameras are recording sound and video as soon as the bus turns on. Plus bus drivers have a button to push any time a they see an issue, like a stop arm violator. That will then make a mark in the system.

“And then we can go back and watch the video,” said Peters. “We are finding more and more people do run the red lights but now we have the evidence and the proof to back that up.”

And the footage goes straight from the school, to local police, who say with that evidence, they can issue a ticket within the same day.

“We have wrote tickets,” said Shawn Martin, the chief of the Baroda-Lake Township Police Department. “There are a couple of them we’ve actually sent to the prosecutor’s office for review.”

In two weeks, thanks to the new cameras, the district has filed nearly half a dozen police reports.

“The tool is a must have tool,” said Martin, talking about video evidence. “It’s not only protecting the child but it’s protecting the school bus driver and it’s also protecting the person on the road. If you’re doing nothing wrong, it’s going to capture that you’re doing nothing wrong.”

Some of those reports are filed with Baroda-Lake Township and some with Bridgman Police.

Both departments say the quality of the video is already helping them crack down on dangerous drivers.

“They have the capability of not only focusing in on the license plate as it’s driving past the school bus, but they have the capability also to focus in on the driver,” said Daniel Unruh, chief of police for Bridgman Police. “So it comes in very handy as far as identifying the vehicle in question.”

Ultimately all of the work comes down to one message.

“Red lights on a bus mean to stop,” said Peters, who says he hopes to see a decrease in violations as they continue to turn evidence over to police.

Police say a first offense for passing a bus stop arm costs $240. For anything after that, it jumps to around $1000.


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