Legislation would equip buses with cameras

Photo by Jordan W. Patterson The School Bus Camera Safety Act proposed by state Sen. Cathy Young would allow motorists who illegally pass school buses to be ticketed based on footage from cameras installed on the bus.

Legislation attempting to deter motorists from passing school buses that failed in the state Assembly in 2018 is once more being brought back into the political and public sphere, thanks to state Sen. Cathy Young.

The bill, the School Bus Camera Safety Act, is designed to better equip school districts and law enforcement agencies to catch individuals who illegally pass stopped school buses. According to Assemblyman Andy Goodell, the law would allow law enforcement agencies to use the footage from the camera as a basis for a ticket. The bill also states the installation of such cameras would be aided by the state. School districts would have the option to install such cameras as it would not be state mandated based on the current proposal.

The hope for the added camera use is to help identify motorists who pass stopped buses and prosecute them in addition to deterring individuals from ever violating the traffic law at all.

On Oct. 11, a vehicle nearly struck two students in the Clymer Central School District during an early morning bus run. Two students were about to cross the road to enter the bus when the bus driver began to engage the horn after noticing an incoming vehicle from behind. The students stepped back into their yard as the vehicle passed the stopped bus at a high rate of speed.

The New York State Police was provided with video captured by a camera from inside the bus. So far, no one has been charged in relation to the traffic violation.

Young recently released an official statement reiterating her thoughts regarding the need for school bus cameras focused on incoming traffic, and cited recent deaths involving vehicles passing stopped buses as cause for its urgency.

“Over a three-day span, Americans were stunned to learn of multiple, tragic deaths and injuries of several young children in four states who were attempting to board or waiting for school buses,” Young said in her official statement.

“At least three of the cases involved reckless drivers who illegally passed the buses that had stopped to pick up the students. In their desire to avoid waiting a few seconds, those drivers caused catastrophe, injury and death.”

“No parent should have to endure such a loss or even worry that the simple act of taking the bus to school could be so dangerous,” she continued.

The legislation was passed by the Senate in 2018, but the Assembly did not approve the bill. In fact, the bill has never been considered for a vote as it has been blocked in committee, Goodell said.

“I don’t know why the Assembly leadership has not let the bill come out of committee,” Goodell said. “It’s a great bill to enhance the safety of all our kids.”

The assemblyman suspected the reason for the lack of support is due to the lack of school buses in New York City. Many of Goodell’s colleagues represent areas in New York City and aren’t completely aware of the seriousness of the issue in upstate New York.

“It’s a big issue in upstate New York, but a non issue in New York City,” Goodell said.

While the bill failed in the Assembly last year, Young remained optimistic about the 2019 session, and asked for lawmakers throughout the state to join the Senate in supporting the bill.

“This horrific spate of tragedies has underscored the magnitude of a problem that puts students at risk every day. Let’s act before another young life is ended,” Young said.