Bill would put cameras on school buses to prosecute dangerous drivers

Photo courtesy of Seon

The Assembly has passed a bipartisan bill that would allow local governments and school districts to install cameras on the stop arms of school buses.

The bill was sponsored by Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, in an effort to reduce accidents and dangerous situations involving traffic around school buses. New York state already has laws to fine motorists who pass stopped school buses, however under current law, that can only be done when police officers witness the offense.

Under this new legislation, school buses will automatically take pictures of the cars that illegally pass the bus, including their license plates, increasing the number of offenders caught.

The proposed law is written to be a test program and would sunset on Dec. 1, 2023, unless the Legislature renews it.

“No parent should ever have to worry about their child’s safety on their way to and from school,” said Assemblyman Fred Thiele, who co-sponsored the bill. “Yet, there are far too many drivers on the road who are more concerned about getting where they need to go than stopping for a student crossing the street. By putting cameras on school buses, we save lives and ensure careless drivers aren’t let off the hook.”

A recent one-day survey by the New York State Association for School Pupil Transportation demonstrates the need for this legislation. On May 1st, 2013, the Association found that the 236 school bus drivers in 21 school districts in New York in rural, urban and small city settings reported 306 illegal passes, including 6 “right side” passes.

That represents an average of 1.28 illegal passes per school bus. That number, if extrapolated, would bring the estimated number of illegal passes in the State to over 64,000 on that date alone.

Other studies have estimated that more than 50,000 drivers throughout New York on a single school day illegally pass stopped school buses.

In states where the school bus cameras already exist, including Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut and Washington, offenses are down by 30 to 50 percent.

The bill passed the Assembly on March 19 by 146-0 and currently resides in the Senate Transportation Committee. The Senate bill is sponsored by Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo.

If this bill is passed, the law would go into effect within 30 days. The initial cost for the new cameras would be incurred by the local school districts and taxpayers, however, supporters say the fines would offset those expenses.