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Hundreds of N.B. school buses equipped with stop-arm cameras ahead of school year

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MONCTON -

With back to school quickly approaching, a large number of school buses in New Brunswick will be equipped with new safety measures to help keep students safe.

On Wednesday, the provincial government announced its $690,000 project, which will see stop-arm cameras installed to help catch drivers who don’t stop for a bus’ flashing lights.

“We installed these units in buses in Edmundston, Bathurst, Miramichi area, Fredericton and here in Moncton and some of the biggest comments were that they see multiple violations every day in terms of people driving through their stop signs,” said Rod Parr, service manager of Rock Networks Nova Communication.

Parr said he was “boots on the ground” during the installation of these new cameras across the province.

“This is something that is dear to me because my grandchildren now will be growing up and riding buses,” he added.

New Brunswick is purchasing the technology through Nova Communications and those involved with the project say that installation started in late November of last year.

“Over $5.2 billion in provincial contracts have been awarded to local New Brunswick businesses and in the 2022-23 fiscal year, over 81 per cent of contracts for good, services and construction have been given to New Brunswick businesses,” said Mary Wilson, minister of Service New Brunswick.

“I’m proud to say that we’re on track again for this fiscal year with over 91 per cent of provincial contracts being awarded to New Brunswick businesses, like Nova Communications.”

The new equipment includes a button for the bus driver to press if an infraction occurs.  

“The button is simply there to flag the footage so that when it comes time for the manager, supervisor, coach driver to find that footage, it makes it a lot easier,” said Parr.

However, the actual footage is locked up and Parr says internal departments for Service New Brunswick will be the only ones who can view it.

“The contact is $690,000 for 225 school buses, so about $3000 per school bus and each school bus has a series of cameras,” explained Joe Hickey, CEO of Rock Networks.

“To date, we’ve deployed 150 of those camera systems in the buses.”

He says that so far the Anglophone East, Anglophone West and Anglophone North districts have received cameras, adding that it depends on which district asks for them.

“[The camera] would capture an image of the vehicle,” said Hickey.

“The purpose of this technology is not to look at it as an individual driver, but the vehicle is actually in error because you could have a car and five different people could be driving the car. Similar to red light cameras, the purpose is not to get the individual driver, the purpose is to flag the individual vehicle.”

New Brunswick Education & Early Childhood Development Minister Bill Hogan says based on a previous pilot project, the impact is expected to be significant.

"In 2019 we ran a pilot program in the Anglophone South School District, we equipped 19 school buses with stop-arm cameras,” said Hogan, during the announcement on Wednesday.

“We got a great deal of feedback through that pilot. For example, one of the things we learned is how well these cameras work in bad weather."

He says there are about 1200 school buses within the province’s fleet, with thousands of students taking the bus on a daily basis.

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