State law will allow districts to add cameras to bus stop arms
Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently signed legislation authorizing school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses in order to catch drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped school bus.
"No parent should ever have to worry that their child's bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy," Cuomo said. "By signing this measure into law, we are providing school districts the tools they need to hold reckless drivers accountable and advancing New York State's bold initiatives to keep our schoolchildren safe."
In New York State, approximately 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school every year and it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus. However, during a special event in April 2018, Operation Safe Stop — one day in which law enforcement targeted offenders passing a stopped school bus — over 850 people were ticketed. And an estimated 50,000 vehicles pass stopped school buses across the state every day.
The law allows districts to decide on methods and contracts to install the cameras on their buses, which are often contracted through third-party companies.
Where our districts stand
While still a fresh law, school districts will now have an opportunity to sign on to the program.
Interim superintendent Donna Jones said the district is not yet ready to commit to the program, though they are interested. Officials will work in the upcoming school year to figure out costs associated with the program and how it would alter their contract with Montauk Bus Company.
Administration officials did not respond with information after requests for comment, but board president E. Anne Hayes said they were interested in learning more. “The administration is gathering information about the camera system and will provide a report to the board of education at an upcoming meeting,” she said.
William Floyd spokesman James Montalto said the district is interested and will be working with their transportation provider to come up with a contract for the camera upgrades.
SCPD: Enforcement a challenge in Suffolk County
“The Suffolk County Police Department is dedicated to ensuring the safety of all school bus riders. The department increases enforcement in and around schools at the start of the school year to ensure drivers are following traffic laws to keep children out of harm’s way,” said SCPD officials, explaining that officers also speak with school bus drivers to address specific complaints regarding intersections and locations where drivers are known to pass them while stopped.
“In general, passing a school bus is often a random act by a driver who is not paying attention; therefore, enforcement can be challenging because officers must witness the infraction to take action,” the SCPD added.
The number of summonses issued for passing a school bus by the Suffolk County Police Department between Jan. 1, 2018 and July 31, 2019 was 236 across all seven precincts.
The fine for illegally passing a stopped school bus is $250 to $400, up to five points on your license, and/or up to 30 days in jail your first time. Second- and third-time fines increase to $1,000 and 180 days, according to Operation Safe Stop. Worse yet, you could injure or kill a child.
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