Cameras eyed to combat passing of school buses

ALBANY — With the lives and safety of New York students threatened daily by the illegal passing of stopped school buses, state Sen. Catharine Young (R,C,I-Olean) held a press conference today to urge legislative action on a measure authorizing the use of camera devices on school buses to record and ticket stop-arm violators. Joining Young was the Assembly sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D, WF, I-129th District), as well as officials from the educational, law enforcement and advocacy communities who urged passage of the measure before the conclusion of the legislative session.

“As every parent knows, there are an endless number of threats to our children’s safety that cause worry and concern. Yet, crossing the neighborhood road to get on or off the school bus shouldn’t be at the top of that list,” said Young. “New York, like every state in the nation, has a law making it illegal for motorists to pass stopped school buses — a law that was passed to safeguard student safety. Yet, statistics tell us that an alarming number of drivers — upwards of 50,000 each day — recklessly disregard this law, senselessly putting countless children at risk in the process.”

“Just one month ago, a child in Monsey, New York was hit by a motorist who passed a stopped school bus. Thankfully, in this case, the student’s injuries were minor. However, not every child in that situation is as fortunate: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports that approximately five children are killed every year by motorists who pass stopped school buses and several times that number are injured. These figures do not include the countless ‘near-misses’ that are a frequent occurrence. These are needless and unacceptable risks that underscore why this legislation is crucial.”

Currently, motorists who pass stopped school buses can only be issued a ticket if a police officer witnesses the violation. Because it is impossible for law enforcement to patrol every bus stop daily, very few violators face any consequences for their dangerous behavior.

The legislation sponsored by Young and Magnarelli addresses this problem by allowing school districts and school bus companies to install automated cameras to detect and capture images of vehicles that fail to stop when the stop arm of the bus is extended to pick up or discharge students. It allows the evidence taken from the cameras to be used by police agencies in prosecuting violators and issuing fines.

The bill would retain the current financial penalties for stop-arm violations with fines of $250. Unlike situations with police officers involved, the bill would not impose points or imprisonment for convictions.