Georgia Amends Law on School Bus Camera Tickets, Introduces School Zone Speeding Camera Tickets

On May 8, 2018, Governor Nathan Deal signed into Georgia House Bill 978 which amends the current law regarding School Bus Camera Tickets. This is a major amendment of the existing law which has both good news and bad news.

First, the good news.  School bus camera tickets are now $250 for each incident. Prior to this amendment, it was $300 for the first offense, $750 for the second offense, and $1,000 for each subsequent offense. These were egregious penalties especially for any tickets beyond the first one. But now, it is more “reasonable” at $250 per offense whether it is your first, second, third, etc. ticket.

Secondly, drivers will not be penalized if you drive pass a school bus in the opposite lane. It used to be no matter which lane or direction you are driving, if you passed a school bus, you could receive a school bus camera ticket. The specific language in the amended law is as follows:

The driver of a vehicle upon a highway with separate roadways or a divided highway, including, but not limited to, a highway divided by a turn lane, need not stop upon meeting or passing a school bus which is on a different roadway or on another half of a divided highway, or upon a controlled-access highway when the school bus is stopped in a loading zone which is a part of or adjacent to such highway and where pedestrians are not permitted to cross the roadway.

Now, to the bad news. The enforcement of payment of penalties is now being placed upon Georgia’s Department of Revenue, specifically the department which regulates car tag registrations and car tag titles. Supposedly, if you do not pay the civil penalties, you will not be able to renew your car registration, nor will you be able to transfer car title to anyone. That means you theoretically can’t sell your car or trade-in your car.

The specific language in the amended law is as follows:

(7) If a violation has not been contested and the assessed penalty has not been paid, the agent or governing body shall send to the person who is the registered owner of the motor vehicle a final notice of any unpaid civil monetary penalty authorized by this Code section, except in cases where there is an adjudication that no violation occurred or there is otherwise a lawful determination that no civil monetary penalty shall be imposed. The notice shall inform the registered owner that the agent or governing body shall send a referral to the Department of Revenue if the assessed penalty and any late fee is not paid within 30 days after the final notice was mailed and that such referral shall result in the nonrenewal of the registration of such motor vehicle and shall prohibit the title transfer of such motor vehicle within this state.

(8) The agent or governing body shall send a referral to the Department of Revenue not sooner than 30 days after the final notice required under paragraph (7) of this subsection was mailed if a violation of an ordinance or resolution adopted under this article has not been contested and the assessed penalty has not been paid. The referral to the Department of Revenue shall include the following:

(A) Any information known or available to the agent or governing body concerning the license plate number, year of registration, and the name of the owner of the motor vehicle;
(B) The date on which the violation occurred;
(C) The date when the notice required under this Code section was mailed; and
(D) The seal, logo, emblem, or electronic seal of the governing body.

(9) If the Department of Revenue receives a referral under paragraph (8) of this subsection, such referral shall be entered into the motor vehicle database within five days of receipt and the Department of Revenue shall refuse to renew the registration of such motor vehicle and shall prohibit the title transfer of such vehicle within this state unless and until the civil monetary penalty plus any late fee is paid to the governing body. The Department of Revenue shall mail a notice to the registered owner of such motor vehicle that informs such owner:

(A) That the registration of the vehicle involved in the violation will not be permitted to be renewed;
(B) That the title of the vehicle involved in the violation will not be permitted to be transferred in this state;
(C) That the aforementioned penalties are being imposed due to the failure to pay the civil monetary penalty plus any late fee for an ordinance violation adopted under the authority of this Code section; and
(D) Of the procedure that the person may follow to remove the penalties.

Prior to this amendment, the previous law had few recourse against people who were smart and clever enough to carefully read the law and simply not pay the “civil penalties”. There were veiled suppositions and hypothetical statements made by various local government websites and local government employees that someone COULD face collection action or have the matter show up on a credit report. But these statements were never definitive and largely relied on most people’s ignorance of the law. It relied on the “uncertainty factor”. School bus camera tickets are not a debt. The imposed civil penalty was not part of a contract anyone agreed to or signed, and because of these two issues, legitimate collection agencies could not attempt collection action based on any debt or contract claim.

But now, things seems to have changed. If you don’t pay the civil penalty, then you theoretically can’t renew your Georgia car registration or transfer your Georgia car title. I say theoretically because this amendment is newly passed and has not yet been implemented or executed. Also, it currently appears that drivers with non-Georgia car tags and car registrations will be exempt from this. This appears to be an unintentional loophole due to the fact that Georgia cannot compel any other state to NOT renew their state’s car titles or refuse to transfer their state’s car titles. However, we will see what transpires in the weeks and months to come.

Also, it appears this recent amendment sets the stage for “school zone speeding camera tickets” using cameras along with radar, speed-detection devices. This does not currently exist but it appears there will soon be warning signs near school zones warning people that speeding in school zones will be monitored and enforced by a combination of cameras and speed radar devices.

As with all laws, the true impact and consequences of this new amendment remains to be seen. There is some benefit where people will not suffer egregious financial penalties if a driver gets caught up in this situation more than once. There will also be fewer situations where drivers on the opposite lane will suffer a camera ticket.

However, the birth of school zone speeding camera tickets and holding people’s car registrations and car titles hostage to questionable camera ticketing systems by a for-profit company remains a great concern.

We feel that it is too early to tell what the long-term impact will be. Further, we are still studying this new amendment and public comments to determine what we advise people to do.

 

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12 Comments

  1. Any updates? I was planning on disregarding my “violation” notice until I read this and see that it could cause me to not be able to register my vehicle

  2. I was sent a ticket for passing a bus. The problem is that My vehicle or I was not in Georgia. Anyone should be able to see my vehicle is a Chevy Equinox that was pulled from the data system. The vehicle in the pictures is a clearly a grey Toyota with coal license plates. My Chevy equinox is black with veterans plates.

    • You can dispute the ticket. And if you belive someone was driving your car you can state all proof and information to them you were not driving the car at the time.

  3. I received a citation in April. The video saying you can pass a school bus in the opposite way provided by channel 5 is still up leading you to believe that it is legal. bill 978 was amended in February. It is a total money maker for Georgia because if you don’t pay the department of
    may not let you get licenses for the vehicle, change title, or trade it in. The penalty does not protect the children any more or less than it did before.
    Its like a police man waving you through a crash site and then another arresting you for driving through one. Make a law and announce it and then change the law and keep it quiet.

  4. I got a ticket in April 2019. This school bus decided to stop randomly in front of a weekly stay hotel and a restaurant next door. There were no kids waiting to be picked up. It was a short bus that just stopped randomly out of nowhere close to turn corner from the intersection. I always stop for school buses. The video capture does show me passing the sign. But it doesn’t show I was driving the vehicle. It doesn’t show that there was a giant box truck behind it blocking it. There’s no way a driver would see a tiny yellow bus behind one of those 10′ tall box trucks. I highly disagree with this method of capturing people ignoring school bus stops. Because I’ve never ran a school bus stop sign in my life. I have had a clean MVR for 6+ years. This one just happened to stop abruptly in an unlikely hidden spot of the street. If this isn’t fishy, then I don’t know what is.

    • Well, well, well. I ran into the same school bus this morning, today. This time I was right behind it. And it stopped exactly in the same spot, between a weekly stay hotel and restaurant. No kids got off, no kids were picked up. The school bus just randomly stopped in a left turn lane, then took off. I’ve just realized after seeing this with my own two eyes that I should’ve filmed this. This is pure entrapment to have people busted!

  5. My wife got a ticket last week. Here is the problem with hers. The video shows the bus coming to a full stop before deploying the stop sign, waiting 1 to 2 seconds to extend the stop sign, at which time she and the car next to her were parallel to the rear of the bus and did not have time to stop. At the moment they were in that position, there had been no sign out and no flashing red lights to indicate the bus was stopping. How is someone supposed to stop with no warning that the bus is going to stop? The bigger concern should be the four cars that passed after her.
    We are certainly in favor of using technology to protect students from injury or death, but only if it is used properly. I have seen many school buses pull over and sit with no lights on. Was I supposed to stop? This is a moneymaker for someone. Until recently, I remember buses turning on yellow flashers to indicate they were slowing down and then the red flashers and stop sign before they came to a complete stop. NO one can stop without a little warning. There needs to be some changes made to the procedure. I paid the ticket because of the consequences if I don’t and it would cost more to go to court, but I am going to request a refund based on the video evidence.

  6. Yes, School bus cameras are the new Ludowici, GA SPEED TRAP revenue producers for government. Many years ago Ludocici, GA installed a red light that turned from green to red with no yellow light. Of course the police sat next to the red light and issued ticket to anyone out of town that ran the red light, which was many many people. The State of Georgia suspended their power to collect fines, and, of course the red light was replaced with one with a yellow light. My wife just received a ticket from a school bus that was stopped and just sitting beside a turn lane on Old Peachtree Road, Coming east out of Duluth, just past the Publix. The speed limit is 40 mph there, and you are on a curve and have to top a hill before you see the bus. Since the bus was sitting with no lights on as she rounded the curve and topped the hill, she was 50 yards away as the bus driver then flipped on the stop sign light mechanism. Since she had already determined the bus was not loading or unloading children, her attention was on the very dangerous blind intersection at Peachtree Place, which she would be passing in 2 seconds. We have had several close calls at that intersection over the years, and, thus her attention was there for the next 2 seconds. And, of course, during those 2 seconds, the driver flipped out the stop sign and a ticket was sent. The buses should be required to signal, like a redlight, that they are going to use this stop sign equipment, by flashing yellow warning lights on the front, sides, and rear of the buses for 4 to 6 seconds, before activating stop signs and camera equipment, to avoid the Ludowici effect they have going now. I also believe certain bus drivers are waiting until cars are close, to activate their equipment, in order to entrap drivers… maybe just for their own sadistic kicks?

  7. I’m still peeved about getting a ticket for “passing a school bus” 2 yrs ago in Marietta, GA (Delk and I-75). I don’t think a school bus was even there! The video showed me passing just as a Stop sign arm was in the process of extending 3 lanes and a bike lane away. Like I would see that!? It appeared the video alone exonerated me. I never even saw any school bus nor flashing lights nor a Stop sign. And I’m sure the 4 other cars that were videotaped at the same time, going about 35 mph, didn’t see any school bus either. So I assume they all got this same sham ticket too. After waiting 4 hours in the courtroom and missing a day of work, the lawyer there said there had been over 3000 tickets issued at that same spot over the prior 9 months. Hello!! Doesn’t that tell you something is not right??? At $300 a pop, that’s about $1,000,000 in revenue in 9 months – chu-ching!! The lawyer said that at that spot, the bus drops the kids off who have to cross 8 lanes to the other side of the road to get to their apartment complex. Bull – why wouldn’t the bus make a U-turn 1 block away, and drop the kids off right in front of their complex? IF you care about safety, that is. AND there is no crosswalk anywhere near there. The lawyer also said “Yes, everyone says they are a parent and would NEVER pass a stopped school bus”. SCAMMMM! I wish I had a lawyer friend to investigate this.

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