We asked local districts if they're considering taking advantage of a new law
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 school children 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.
Superintendent Ellen Semel said her district as well as her surrounding school districts do not own their buses, and are actually contracted out by Suffolk Transportation Services. Since Suffolk Transportation owns the buses, it falls under their authority whether or not to sign on, considering the opportunity granted entering the school year. Semel said the cameras are a great idea and apply an appropriate burden to offenders.
“It would certainly be a deterrent for drivers [to pass a bus],” she said. “The statistics on people who pass stopped buses is frightening.”
More information on whether Suffolk Transportation will sign up to upgrade their buses will be available in next week’s edition.
Superintendent Joseph Bond said he has been advocating for stop-arm cameras on buses for the last few years and was happy to hear of the new law.
“We will be working with our partners at Suffolk Transportation to expand our use of the cameras beyond the buses that were part of our pilot program,” he assured.
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.