New Law Regarding Automated School Bus Violations

by Alex Lloyd Gross

Everyone should stop when a school bus has it’s red lights flashing. Not everyone does. Some school districts have outfitted the school buses that service their students with video cameras that capture motorists driving past without stopping. Many motorists pay the fine of $300.00 . Some, however contest the fine and sometimes they have a valid reason and are found not to be in violation. Governor Josh Shapiro signed into law, new legislation regarding the contesting of these violations and the programs themselves.

For starters, the hearings now are heard in district court. Under the law, motor vehicle owners may request a hearing to contest liability before a PennDOT hearing officer, at no cost to the vehicle owner. This was updated by Act 19. Previously, an owner could contest liability by requesting a hearing with the magisterial district judge where the violation occurred and paying the applicable civil filing fees. Beginning this week, notices of violation will include instructions for requesting a hearing with a PennDOT hearing officer.

The updated law also includes additional transparency with the requirement of an annual report. Schools with an active program are required to submit information to PennDOT and Pennsylvania State Police (PSP) annually by July 1. The agencies will jointly prepare a report that will be posted to the schools’ publicly available website by December 31. Reports are required to include:

  • The name of the system administrator.
  • The number of school buses equipped with a side stop signal arm enforcement system.
  • The number of notices of violation issued.
  • The amount of fines imposed and collected.
  • The amounts paid under agreements authorized under the law.
  • The results of contested violations.
  • Use of additional revenue funds and any grants awarded from the program

“This program is about increasing the safety of children riding school buses across the state,” said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. “Please stop for – and never pass – stopped school buses with their red lights flashing and stop arm extended. The safety of our children is in your hands.”

In Bensalem, they implemented a program after several children was killed or injured by motorists disregarding school bus light. You can read that story here.

When someone pays the fine, this is how the money is split up. Of the $300 fine assessed to violators under the program, $250 is paid to the school district where the violation occurred; $25 is paid to the primary police department that reviewed the submitted evidence as required by law; and $25 is paid to Penn DOT to be used for the School Bus Safety Grant Program.

The vehicle owner will get the ticket. Pennsylvania law, updated by Act 19 of 2023, allows school districts to install and operate automated camera systems for the purpose of enforcing Pennsylvania’s School Bus Stopping Law and increasing safety for children riding school buses across the state. Violations identified by a camera system are reviewed by police under agreement with the school district. After that review the school district may issue a violation to the vehicle owner, including a $300 fine. These violations are civil penalties only and no points will be assessed to driver’s licenses.