8 Telltale Signs You Need to Replace Your School Bus Camera System

Cameras have been recording student and driver behavior on school buses for more than a decade, but if you still have some of that older technology on your bus it’s probably time to swap it out.

Anyone in school transportation knows that the school bus is not a friendly place for electronics.  With the dust and dirt trucked in by the pitter-patter of 88 pairs of feet every day, twice a day, and the constant vibrations of a moving vehicle (can you say potholes?), even carefully engineered, high-quality mobile surveillance equipment has an optimum lifespan of around five years with proper maintenance.

Not sure if it’s time to upgrade your school bus camera systems? Here are a few telltale signs:

#1 – Two words: video cassette

 

 

 

 

 

If you have to remove a video cassette tape to view video, it is definitely time to upgrade.  Never mind the hours it takes to rewind and fast-forward to find the right spot, the tape that gets stuck, or that annoying video reel sound – who even has a working VCR to view it?

#2 – You only have one camera view

One camera viw

 

 

 

Let me bring you in on a little secret.  Kids figure out pretty quick where the camera gaps are.  School bus camera systems are now capable of up to 13 camera views for a more complete picture of the entire bus.  Then you don’t have to keep moving the problem kids to the front seat!

#3 – Your camera images are so foggy you need to draw a red circle around the area of interest

foggy_view

 

 

 

 

Camera lenses and recording resolution has come a long way – even in the last three years.  Gone are the days of fuzzy, pixelated video.  Today’s school bus camera systems are even capable of HD-quality recording.

#4 – Date & time-stamp – what’s that?

If you can’t even get a date and time-stamp on your video clips, then you are probably missing out on a whole bunch of other features that come standard with most modern bus video systems.  GPS integration is one useful feature that comes to mind that can give your video footage rich context.  Same goes for the ability to automatically download video over Wi-Fi and signal integration such as indicator lights, stop-arm, and wheelchair lift deployment.

#5 – The warranty period has expired

expired

 

 

 

 

 

If the warranty period on your equipment has expired that means if anything breaks, it could cost you more to repair than to replace.  And remember, vendors have warranty periods for a reason. The end of the warranty period usually signals the end of the time vendors are confident all components will work properly.

#6 – It came ‘factory-installed’ when the bus was delivered – twelve years ago!

Thanks to school transportation budget cuts, the average lifespan of a school bus has increased from eight to twelve years.  Video systems don’t stand the same test of time, even with regular maintenance. As a rule of thumb, if your system is more than seven years old, it’s time to upgrade.

#7 – Your video system installation involved duct tape

Duct Tape Installation

 

 

 

 

 

Of course we’re kidding about the duct tape (although I have seen this in real life)! But any poorly installed system won’t stand the test of time– especially when it involves electronics on a moving vehicle.  Sometimes the equipment was either not installed by professionals, or even worse, the system wasn’t designed to be used in a moving vehicle and won’t work for long.

#8 – It’s like watching a silent movie

Silent Movie Screen

Older camera systems either weren’t available with audio, or the poor sound quality makes it hard to understand what anyone is saying.  Integrated microphones on newer cameras take care of this problem.

Even if your school bus camera systems aren’t ancient, if they are more than five years old you run the risk of one day having the uncomfortable conversation with a parent or school administrator about why the ‘video didn’t record’ that incident where little Johnny punched little Susie.  Don’t put yourself in that position – put your bus camera systems on a regular technology refresh program.

ebook upgrading school bus video systems

Join the conversation on Facebook – what are your favorite telltale signs that your school bus camera system needs upgrading?

Lori_Jetha_sm

Lori Jetha
Marketing Communications Manager
Seon 

 

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Calculating the ROI of Transit Security: A Step-by-step Guide

Transit BusPassenger & driver safety and security is at the core of every successful transit system operation. But when it comes time to cough up the money to upgrade camera equipment or add more camera views, it can often be difficult to secure funding.  Many transit agencies find the need to justify their camera purchase with the powers that be. What many have found most useful is a return on investment (ROI) calculation that shows exactly what improvements and cost reductions can be achieved through investment in the latest security technology.

To justify your next transit security upgrade, we thought we’d share our step-by-step guide to calculating the ROI of transit surveillance.

Here are some of the steps we suggest you take to justify your next bus camera system purchase:

Step 1: Identify Your Problem Areas

List of Problems

One of the best places to start is by making a list of your problem areas, or in other words the biggest drains on your time and finances. For a lot of agencies this is fraudulent injury or accident claims. For others it might be vandalism such as graffiti or seat destruction, increasing crime rates, or driver assaults. Try to put together as comprehensive a list as possible, it may surprise you how a few small things can add up to make a big impact.

Step 2: Collect Data

Data Collection Pic

The next step is to take the list you just created and collect the data required to establish your current costs, in order to create a baseline. It holds way more credibility if you use actual data (i.e. number of events or expenses and the average cost based on data from the past 3 years). For example, one transit agency we worked with had a significant amount of fraudulent claims and collected data on the number of claims per month, the average dollars paid out, the number of claims that went to litigation, and the amount of resources required to investigate claims. These numbers formed the basis of their ROI calculation.

Consult your risk management, legal, or human resources departments to collect this data. It helps to calculate the monthly costs in order to establish your payback period. You can be as detailed or as general as your agency allows or time permits.

Step 3: Set Goals & Objectives

Goals For Savings

 

 

 

 

Once you have collected your data, the next step is to set some realistic and feasible goals and outcomes from your purchase. Take the same data that you collected in step two and determine which of these costs can be reduced or eliminated with your camera system purchase.

Some of the most common goals are to reduce the number of fraudulent injury claims, reduce the hours required to investigate claims, reduce vandalism, and reduce absenteeism and medical costs from driver assaults.

From the ROI calculations we have been involved in it is not unexpected to see the number of fraudulent claims reduced by between 30 and 50% and the amount of time required to investigate those claims reduced from several days to under an hour.

Step 4: Do the Math

CalculatorNow that you have determined what factors will have an impact on security costs, collected historical data, and made some projections on what costs you can reduce or eliminate, it’s time to do the math.

First, tally up the costs before installing cameras and then subtract your projected costs after the cameras are installed to calculate your savings per month. Then, use the calculation below to determine your payback period:

Calculating Transit Payback

Based on the calculations we’ve participated in with clients, this payback period typically ranges from 12 to 24 months.

The next step is to take those numbers and calculate your ROI over the optimal operating period of a typical camera system, for example 5 years.  Here is a sample calculation from one transit agency with 300 buses:

ROI Calculation
Following these 4 simple steps to calculate the ROI of transit security should help you justify your camera purchase and convince your decision committee that investing in improvements to transit security can actually yield a positive return on investment.

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Seon’s School Bus Driver Contest Winner — The Story of Leslie Taggart & Bus 16

Leslie Taggart RibbonIf you don’t know already, on May 30, 2014, Seon completed a month long school bus driver contest. To enter, drivers sent Seon’s Facebook page a message. In the message they included a photo of themselves at their school bus, and told us 1. How they prevent bullying on the school bus, and 2. Why they love their job. Then we added the entries to a Seon Facebook Album called, “School Bus Drivers Preventing Bullying.” We had 19 entries, all of which were unique, thoughtful, and inspiring. The competition was tough, but when we received Leslie Taggart’s entry (school bus driver for 10 years at Centralia School District in Washington), we knew we had found our winner.

Bus #16 at Centralia SD, Washington

Bus #16 at Centralia SD, Washington

Leslie’s photo showed her school bus filled with student passengers, and more students and herself crowded in front of the bus holding posters reading, “On our bus…we are equal.” The looks of pride on Leslie and the children’s’ faces were priceless. And then there was her response to our questions. This is part of what Leslie wrote us:

“My kids know that no matter WHO they are, on my bus everyone is equal. NO ONE is any better than anyone else, and they move over for kids to sit with them who are strangers; it’s just like a family on my bus. I run a very full bus between 72—78 children daily, and everyone gets along.

I love being a school bus driver because I get a chance to help teach kids how to “cope.” School nowadays is more of a life lesson than anything. I teach them how to cope with disappointment, heart break, friends, and how to have an overall outlook on life that everyone will always have an opinion on how THEY think YOUR life SHOULD be, but… it’s up to YOU on how you let their opinions affect YOU.”

Read Leslie’s full entry in the Facebook Album!

Leslie Taggart, School Bus Driver

Leslie Taggart, School Bus Driver

Before the contest started, Leslie was recognized at Centralia SD for her outstanding job and involvement with the students. “I challenged kids on my bus to do three random acts of kindness to people that they do not know. 66 out of the 78 children participated and spread positivity and good spirit to others in the community and in their school. I was very proud of them.”

Leslie heard about Seon’s Facebook contest, and wanted to spread her message to the public and raise awareness about bullying and other issues both on and off the school bus. She never imagined she would be the winner, and was shocked to hear the news. I had the opportunity to congratulate Leslie over the phone.

Peter Klemm, Seon's Product Specialist, meeting Leslie and congratulating her

Peter Klemm, Seon’s Product Specialist meeting Leslie and congratulating her

“When I found out that I had won the contest, the kids were loading onto the school bus. I let out a very loud squeal,” she laughed. “Right away the kids asked me what happened, as I gave them quite the startle! I let them know I won Seon’s contest, and they all screamed in excitement for me, themselves, and our school bus. It was definitely a moment I will always remember.”

Leslie reflected on when she started driving her current route and the issues that were present. “When I first took over the route it was infused with a lot of gang affiliated kids, and I worked daily to curb it. I would end my day frustrated, cleaning graffiti on the seats only to have them written on again the next day,” she explained. “One day, I pulled over and had a serious discussion with my kids, explaining that if they had the urge to write bad words on something, write on their jeans, or back packs, or their foreheads…better yet, go home and write on their parents’ couch and see how they would like it. I said that I expected the writing to stop. That speech was seven years ago, and my seats have been graffiti free ever since. I think the point was made.”

Flyer_Blog

One of the flyers Leslie made to handout to the kids

Another way Leslie spreads words of encouragement and positivity to her student passengers is by making post cards and flyers for the kids. “I share inspiring words that I feel will challenge them— I treat the kids like family. I do not segregate the children by age or grade. I believe this mentality creates a sense of bullying. For example, an older child could exclaim, “You’re too little, you can’t sit here.” I treat everyone equal on the bus — like the posters in my entry photo show. It was a lot of hard work in the beginning, but I reap the benefits of a bus-family now.”

The flyer Leslie created for the children about spreading kindness to others

The flyer Leslie created for the children about spreading kindness to others

Leslie will receive $200 for herself as a gift of appreciation from Seon. The transportation department at Centralia SD will receive $500 for driver training. Her submitted photo is now Seon’s Facebook Cover Photo for the month of June. She will also receive a Seon anti-bullying medal, pin, personalized anti-bullying certificate, and 2 of The Bully Project Educator’s DVD and Toolkits.

“I am very excited to receive The Bully Project DVD Kits. I have watched the movie, Bully, and have suggested for our school to play it at an assembly to educate and create awareness about bullying. Now that we are receiving two of the kits, I will pass one onto the school, and keep one with the transportation department so that we can go ahead with bus driver and transportation training — the school can also decide on a way to show the film to staff and students.”

Leslie and family

Leslie and her daughters

Reading and viewing Leslie’s entry, communicating with her over Facebook, and having the chance to speak to her over the phone has been a tremendous privilege for me. Hearing her encouraging words, grateful attitude, and positive outlook on life is something that I won’t forget. It is a reward for me to share Leslie’s story, and commend her in the difference that she makes in the lives of her students. Seon is proud to announce and award Leslie as an anti-bullying advocate.

With that, let’s part with more inspirational words from Leslie Taggart:

“The words on the flyers for my children come from my heart. I am so proud of my kids, I just can’t tell you how much. You can be anything you want to be. Hard work, honesty, dedication, and integrity are all you really need to succeed.”

View Leslie Taggart’s full entry and the other admirable school bus drivers’ entries on Seon’s Facebook Page. Be sure to “Like” Seon’s page to follow some of the latest updates in the industry!

Tia O'Grady _sm

Tia O’Grady | Marketing Coordinator
tia.ogrady@seon.com

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Seon Supports Anti-bullying

Deadline Approaching for Seon’s School Bus Driver Facebook Contest

Seon's Facebook Contest Entries!

Seon’s Facebook Contest Entries!

At the beginning of May, Seon started a special Facebook Photo Contest dedicated to School Bus Drivers. Drivers may apply to Seon’s Facebook Contest until Friday, May 30, 2014 — it’s coming up fast!

Why we’re holding the contest

Seon understands how important school bus drivers are. We want to show our support for their efforts to keep students safe by stopping bullying on the school bus. We are highlighting these incredible drivers in a special photo album on our Facebook Page. The goal is to share their stories and celebrate the incredible care they give to children.

What the winner will receive!

A non-biased judging panel will review the entries and decide on a recipient for the following:

  • $500 for their school bus transportation department to go towards bus driver training
  • $200 Visa Gift Card (to enjoy a nice meal on us as a reward for being an anti-bullying advocate!)
  • Their photo as Seon’s Facebook cover photo for the month of June, 2014Bully Project Kit
  • A blog post about the school bus driver
  • 2 Bully Project Educator’s DVD and Toolkits
  • Seon’s anti-bullying medal, pin, and personalized anti-bullying certificate

Good luck to all entries — we LOVE the photos and comments received so far!

What incredible entries we’ve had! Your smiling faces and inspiring words about how you prevent bullying on the school bus and why you love your job are priceless. We feel privileged to have a part in sharing your stories.

It’s not too late to apply!

If you are a school bus driver that wants to share your story, or if you know of a fabulous driver that you feel should enter, visit the Seon webpage to learn how quick & easy it is to apply. Then go to Seon’s Facebook Page to enter: www.facebook.com/Seon.Design.Inc

View the “School Bus Drivers Preventing Bullying” Album on Seon’s Facebook Page to see the entries! You’ll be glad you did: Seon’s School Bus Drivers Facebook Album.

Tia O'Grady _sm

Tia O’Grady | Marketing Coordinator
tia.ogrady@seon.com

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6 Proven Steps to a Successful Stop-arm Enforcement Program

nasdpts

In 2013, twenty-nine participating states reported a whopping 85,279 vehicles illegally passing the school bus in a single day, according to an annual survey organized by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services (NASDPTS).

Many school districts have started investigating stop-arm camera technology to stem this growing problem. But as many districts have discovered, building a successful stop-arm enforcement program isn’t as simple as placing a camera on the side of the bus.

Here are a few steps we recommend to jump-start your own stop-arm camera enforcement program:

Step 1: How big is your problem?

The first step in any successful stop-arm camera solution is exploring how big the problem is in your district. Ask yourself four questions to start off:

1)      How many stop-arm violations do my drivers report in a week?

2)      Are these reports isolated to a few buses or routes, or is the problem more widespread?

3)      Do the violations tend to happen in the AM or PM runs?

4)      Do most violations occur from vehicles travelling in the same or opposite direction?

The answers to these questions will allow you to assess the risks involved and provide proof of the problem.

Step 2: Know your state laws

Many states have passed legislation on the use of stop-arm cameras. If state or local laws do not provide for the use of automated cameras on school buses, then work with local law enforcement to understand their requirements for detecting and citing violations.

Step 3: Establish a good relationship with law enforcement

Even if your state has legislation that allows stop-arm cameras, establishing a dialog with local law enforcement early on in the process is important — especially if you want to send tickets to offending drivers. Don’t forget to discuss what documentation and type of image or video is necessary for them to review, approve, and issue a ticket for a stop-arm violation.

Seon_Stop_arm_Camera_on_School_BusStep 4: Choose the right camera system

Once you have law enforcement’s commitment, the next step is selecting the right camera system. Consider your discussion with law enforcement, among other factors.

“There are two key factors in capturing the license plates of vehicles illegally passing a school bus — camera position and image quality,” says Peter Simmons, Director of Marketing at Seon. “Even if you install the cameras in the right position, the camera must be designed to provide high-resolution images, clear enough to capture the license plates of vehicles passing at potentially high speeds.”

Step 5: Install, test, and consult

Once you have purchased your stop-arm camera systems, work with your supplier to install and position your cameras in the best possible locations. Pull sample video of a mock stop-arm violation and create license plate still images to share with your local law enforcement. Make sure that everything satisfies police requirements. Next, run a pilot project to test the cameras in action. Consult all interested parties in the pilot project including police, school board, parents, even the media. Involving them in the beginning, prior to launch, can eliminate any future problems and speed up your program launch.

Step 6: Have a plan to raise public awareness

Now that you’ve installed and tested your cameras, and consulted with all the necessary parties, you should be ready to launch. But creating awareness about your program is just as important as making sure the technology is accurately capturing violations.

Use relationships with the media to inform the public at large about the cameras and existing laws about stopping for school buses. You can also create awareness through posters at the schools or via social media campaigns.

Following these six steps will get you off to the right start with your stop-arm enforcement program, and ensure you remove any potential roadblocks along the way.

CTA_Stop_arm_Survey_Template

 

Lori_Jetha_sm

Lori Jetha | Marketing Communications Manager
lori.jetha@seon.com

 

 

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