CHEYENNE – The state House Education Committee endorsed a bill Monday that would require cameras on Wyoming school buses to catch drivers who illegally pass.
House Bill 5 now heads to the Joint Appropriations Committee for approval, since the bill will cost the state $5 million, the estimated cost to equip buses with cameras.
Lawmakers called the act of a driver ignoring a stopped school bus a fly by. In 2011, 11-year-old Makayla Marie Strahle was struck and killed by a driver who ignored a stop sign in Crowheart. Students from Crowheart talked to the committee about fly bys, said Rep. Garry Piiparinen, R-Evanston.
“It was quite moving,” he said.
Under current law, it is nearly impossible to catch fly bys, said House Education Committee Chairman Rep. Matt Teeters, R-Lingle.
“The issue is under our current structure of the law, it has to be seen by a law enforcement officer,” he said.
Teri Wigert of the Wyoming Department of Education said about 300 fly bys happen each day in Wyoming, about 52,000 a year. About half 300 of the state’s 1,500 school buses have external cameras. About half have internal cameras, she said.
An external camera costs about $2,000, she said.
HB5, as originally drafted by the Joint Education Interim Committee, required cameras outside and inside each bus. But the House committee amended it to make inside cameras optional. Some lawmakers thought a mandate of inside cameras was an invasion of students’ privacy, but Teeters believes most school districts will get them – even if they’re optional.
Lawmakers believe internal cameras could help prevent bullying and disciplinary issues with staff and students.
“We did have a situation in our area, where the camera made the difference in a child abuse case,” said Rep. John Patton, R-Sheridan.