Catching ‘Fly-by’ Motorists Isn’t Spying

Catching ‘Fly-by’ Motorists Isn’t Spying

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Here’s how deep the paranoia about government control runs in the Wyoming House: A bill that will increase the safety of children getting on and off school buses barely passed final reading Monday because some lawmakers viewed it as Big Brother taking over.

House Bill 5 is aimed at preventing tragedies like the one that happened in Crowheart in December 2011, when 11-year-old Makayla Marie Strahle was killed by a truck after she stepped off her school bus – which had flashing red lights – and started to cross a highway near her home in Crowheart.

In this case, the Wyoming Highway Patrol caught the driver responsible, who was barreling down the road at 57 mph in foggy conditions when he hit the victim. But in most “fly-bys” where drivers ignore signals to stop while school buses are loading and unloading, the reckless motorists can’t be identified. Bus drivers are trained to watch the students when they stop, not other vehicles.

About 300 of the 1,200 school buses in Wyoming have installed video cameras inside and outside the vehicle to help capture images of license plates and drivers as evidence, so the offenders can be prosecuted. HB 5 appropriates up to $5 million to outfit the rest of the state’s school bus fleet with cameras.

House Education Committee Chairman Matt Teeters (R-Lingle) said hundreds of fly-bys occur every day, putting students at risk. In districts that have installed the video equipment, it serves both as a deterrent that has lowered the number of violations and as a tool for prosecutors.

A driver convicted of illegally passing a bus that has its “stop” arm activated and flashing red lights is fined $420 for each offense.

HB5 narrowly passed, 32-27, and now heads to the Senate. It’s clearly a safety measure that’s needed, but House opponents tried to characterize it as an expensive, totalitarian invasion of privacy that is against everything Wyoming and America stand for.

“I’m troubled by the largesse of our government, and its ability to have surveillance over our daily lives. … It’s rolling surveillance in every neighborhood in our state,” said House Speaker Tom Lubnau (R-Gillette), who argued that prosecutors could use the tapes to watch and charge other people with crimes allegedly caught on tape besides just the fly-bys.

“I’m amazed by all the Orwellian comparisons that are being made to this bill,” Teeters said, adding that the bus video cameras have a specific target and will not create a treasure trove of other information for prosecutors.

Rep. Hans Hunt (R-Newcastle) said the school district he represents had a major problem with fly-bys, but they solved it without installing cameras by identifying problem areas and removing some bus stops.

“Local control works,” Hunt maintained.

Other Republican legislators agreed, and suggested that any school district that wants to could install the video equipment without being mandated to do so.

Rep. Matt Greene (R-Laramie), one of the most vehement opponents of the bill, said that “every day the NSA spies on more people,” and that shouldn’t be
extended to surveillance by the state of Wyoming.

“We’re videotaping our own people,” he said. “Mandating [the video cameras] is the state saying we will spy on our own citizens.”

Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, who represents the school district where the Crowheart student was killed, supported the bill and said the victim’s family would like to see it passed so others do not lose their children to tragedies that could have been prevented.

Lubnau withdrew an amendment that would have killed the bill. He said he wasn’t necessarily asking anyone else to oppose it, but he wanted to register his objections and announce that he was voting no.

The speaker’s opposition must have had some impact, though, because HB5 got 51 votes for introduction and only 32 votes for passage.

I don’t know how anyone could mistake this safety measure for a spying effort. The Education Committee’s bill is a good solution to a major problem, and the idea that it could be turned into a vehicle for legislators to complain about government spying is unbelievable. I hope the Senate doesn’t get bogged down in the same ridiculous debate.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Senate member of Fremont county;
    Rep. Hunt (R-Newcastle) said the school district he represents had a major problem with fly-bys, but they solved it without installing cameras by identifying problem areas and removing some bus stops.
    “Local control works,” Hunt maintained.
    Other Republican legislators agreed, and suggested that any school district that wants to could install the video equipment without being mandated to do so. Rep. Matt Greene (R-Laramie), one of the most vehement opponents of the bill, said that “every day the NSA spies on more people,” and that shouldn’t be
extended to surveillance by the state of Wyoming. With these arguments, I recommend you vote this HB5 down. Keep the State government out of places where it does not belong.
    Jimmy Porter
    Dubois, WY

    • With that kind of logic, we could fix all the problems by not running any buses at all Mr. Porter. Government belongs IN PLACE to protect people from harm. While Rep. Hans Hunt would rather ignore the fact that our children are at risk of injury because many drivers ignore school bus laws, others remain concerned and are trying to deter the problem and hold dangerous drivers accountable.

      • Show me one program that the government was supposed to save us from ourselves. None. Dude None! You are giving away your freedom for a dead horse. Government can do nothing….take responsibility for yourself, you do something. Laws are in place….. are they working? I don’t think so cause government can not do its job as it is! I still say NO on this bill! Let the community fix its own problem, I don’t want to pay for it with my freedom to chose.

      • That is the fly in the ointment. “Government belongs in place to protect people from harm.” Bull Shit! It has not worked since it has been tried. Government ends up being the big stick of compliance with something some of the people do not like. You want your kids to go to public school and you do not want to take the responsibility to get them to the school, know that no law will protect them. That is a reality. Government can do nothing. It will just screw up the works that if you took personal responsability for might work.

  2. I went back and read the blurb on this piece of legislation and every bit of it is slanted and a falsehood. I wonder why it was allowed to be used as the head piece for this public display. This bill would not save one child; Even if the videos were installed, which they can as each school system can do, but at their cost, not everyone’s cost, it would not stop one killing. It might catch a killing on film, and maybe the perpetrator, but there are already laws that provide for that. Why keep adding to the laws that the police cannot enforce. I care for kids, but they are your kids and your responsibility. You want them to be safe, put them in your car and take them to the door of the school. That is your responsibility, not state governments job, who can do nothing anyway/

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