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Parents donate more than $3,000 to equip school buses with cameras

MADAWASKA, Maine — The parents of a Madawaska Elementary School student recently donated more than $3,000 worth of camera equipment to be installed on two school buses after a motorist almost ran over their daughter.

Early this month, a camera installed on one school bus captured images of a motorist driving right past the stopped bus even though it had its flashing lights on and stop sign extended. A moment later, the daughter of Michelle and Chad Morneault, who was getting off the bus, crosses the street.

The little girl is usually the first one off the bus, according to Paul Chasse, director of school facilities, safety, operations and maintenance. He said she was having issues with her lunch box and because of that, was delayed in crossing the street.

“If it weren’t for that, it could have resulted in an accident,” he said. “It’s a situation that can always be avoided if the driver pays attention. Prevention is key.”

Police and officials from the Madawaska School Department released footage of the chilling incident in an effort to alert area drivers to be cautious and to stop for school buses.

The officials pointed out that the school department had received a total of five reports of motorists driving past stopped school buses despite their flashing signals being on since school started. There had only been two such incidents reported in the previous three years, according to police.

Two of the four Madawaska school buses in service currently have front facing cameras attached so that police and school officials can review to identify violators.

And on Nov. 20, the Morneaults donated funds for the school department to buy the camera equipment needed for the other two buses. Chuck Cyr and Chad Cyr of Third Eye Global also agreed to donate their time to install the cameras, with the labor estimated to total about $800.

Michelle Morneault, the mother of the little girl in the video, said Friday that her family wanted to donate the cameras for the safety of the children.

“We are hoping that people start understanding that we need to stop for school buses,” Morneault said. “Nothing is more important than our children, no matter how old they are.”

She said her daughter knows that they donated camera equipment to the school to help deter people from driving past stopped buses.

“She asked why we got them and we told her because the two older buses didn’t have cameras on them like you have on the bus with Mr. Paul,” she said. “I really don’t think she understands that she was involved in a near miss.”

During a meeting earlier this month, Principal Wayne Anderson said that from the time school buses turn on their amber flashing lights, until they stop and engage their red stop lights, the bus will have traveled a maximum of 100 feet. The amber lights alert drivers that the bus is about to stop and motorists should not be speeding up, but stopping when they see them, Anderson said.

If a driver rolling past a stopped school bus with its flashing red lights on can be identified, the motorist faces a minimum fine of $250 for the first offense and a 30-day license suspension for the second offense. If the driver cannot be identified, but the vehicle can, the owner faces a fine of over $300.


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