Should buses help enforce road traffic law?

school bus fitted with camera technology

The law varies a little from state to state, but in general, when a school bus in America stops to drop children, surrounding traffic has to stop. To help enforce this rule, BusPatrol fits school buses with AI-enabled cameras linked to local law enforcement agencies so that drivers who overtake illegally receive a ticket. According to the company, their cameras create a culture of awareness and responsibility around school buses and 98% of violators do not receive a second ticket.

It got us thinking about why buses aren’t used to monitor the roads, and, where necessary, help enforce traffic law.

Buses here in the UK are routinely fitted with CCTV, but could they also be equipped with automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras to help identify the UK’s estimated 1 million uninsured vehicles?

Buses with speed limiters act as ‘pace cars’

Nobody can say for certain why pretty much every new car on sale in the UK today is capable of over 100mph, but an even greater mystery is why public service vehicles are not fitted as standard with speed limiters. Research has shown that buses fitted with speed limiters are very successful at lowering the speed of other traffic.

Buses fitted with cameras could prove effective at helping to enforce 20mph speed limits – something that’s currently in chronically short supply.

Five years ago Transport for London (TfL) began testing intelligent speed assistance (ISA) on two bus routes in London. According to the European Transport Safety Council:

  • ISA was particularly effective when travelling through 20mph zones – helping to ensure other vehicles stuck to the limit. The percentage of time spent travelling above the speed limit reduced from a range of 15-19% to 1-3% in 20mph
  • All buses fitted with ISA remained within the speed limit 97-99% of the time. The few incidences of speeding
    occurred on downhill sections – the trialled system did not automatically apply the brakes; it simply prevented acceleration over and above the local speed limit
  • No adverse effect on behaviour was recorded, despite an expected increase in riskier overtaking by surrounding traffic
  • Although there was no significant difference in fuel consumption, there was some evidence of improved emissions in some of the 20mph zones.
bus transport in london

It was expected that by now, well over 500 buses would have the technology fitted and all new buses will start to have the technology fitted at point of manufacture. However, we couldn’t find any update on how many of London’s 9000 buses now use speed limiters.

Why do we need speed limited buses?

We’d all benefit if most motorised vehicles were fitted with speed limiters. Public service vehicles would be a good place to start. Research by the Department for Transport found 81 per cent of cars recorded at nine sites across the country in 2016 broke the 20mph limit, with 15 per cent travelling at over 30mph – this despite evidence showing that a person struck by a car at 20mph stands a 5 per cent chance of being killed, a figure that increases to 45 per cent at 30mph.

Lower speeds are especially important on the streets where people live, work or children play, which is why so many towns and cities are introducing 20mph limits.

When will cars be fitted with speed limiters?

One day in the not too distant future, folk may look back at today’s roads in horror. After all, speeding is endemic and motorists can drive dangerously and even kill with near impunity. The ETA started campaigning for speed limiters in cars in the early 1990s and despite the tech being as old as car themselves,  only now does it seem it may be fitted to new vehicles.

All new cars sold in Britain and Europe are to be fitted with devices to stop drivers exceeding the speed limit under EU measures to reduce road danger. Britain may no longer be part of the EU, but the British regulator, the Vehicle Certification Agency, has confirmed it will mirror safety standards for vehicles sold here.

As well as the speed limiters, new cars will have to fitted automated emergency braking, electronic data recorders (black boxes) and improved visibility built into lorries.

The first factory-fitted speed limiters will allow drivers to override them, but surely it can only be a matter of time before these give way to stricter systems and speeding becomes a thing of the past.

The ethical choice

The ETA was established in 1990 as an ethical provider of green, reliable travel services. Over 30 years on, we continue to offer cycle insurance , breakdown cover  and mobility scooter insurance while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.

The Good Shopping Guide judges us to be the UK’s most ethical provider.





  1. Keith


    “It got us thinking about why buses aren’t used to monitor the roads, and, where necessary, help enforce traffic law.”

    Because that would be another example of the so-called “Nanny State” so loathed by Right wingers – a diminution of the “right and freedom” to drive like a selfish, sociopathic tool.

    That’s why.

  2. David Gray


    This reminds me of advice we were given just before we moved to Melbourne, Australia: “you can only overtake a tram when it’s moving, not when it’s stopped”. It didn’t make much sense until we got there.

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