School bus accountability bill moves through committee

Would force bus companies to report violations

A push to keep dangerous school bus drivers off the roads took a step forward Thursday night.

Baltimore City's red light camera system caught hundreds of school busses running through red lights.

ABC-2 News broke the story, and now city council is working on a law that would require bus companies to keep track of, and then report violations to the mayor, the school board and the council four times a year.

"It scared me to death for all those, you know, who is in a yellow school bus? The littlest elementary school children, our special needs children, the most vulnerable children in our whole city," said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke (D-14 th District).

The school system operates some of its own busses, but it also employs several contractors -- small businesses, some of them owning fewer than 10 busses.

Right now they're not required to report violations their drivers get to the school system.

Several of those contractors appeared before a city council committee Thursday night.  They say it's difficult for them to keep track of which driver was in any given bus when a citation is issued.

And there is high turnover -- drivers start working for one contractor, then they change.

"The driver can just leave that company and go somewhere else.  Is this really going to serve a purpose, because if he leaves me and goes somewhere else, he's still working and he's still a danger on the street with that bus," said Craig Joyner, who runs the Baltimore Travel Lines company.

Another problem -- red light tickets produce fines but no points on a driver's record.

"There's no accountability, and this begins the accountability," Councilwoman Clarke said.

The companies say there are details they'd like to see worked out -- but they agree there is a problem that needs to be addressed.

"I have to admit it myself because I drive busses," Joyner said.  "When I'm not in the office I drive myself and you can see them just flying by each other just like they're driving a race car. It's a major problem in Baltimore City."

The bill passed through the Education and Youth Committee on Thursday; it now moves ahead to a vote of the full City Council, which should happen sometime within the next few weeks.

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