On first day of school, North Country lawmaker calls for more school bus cameras

Photo courtesy of Seon

On the first day back to school for most students, Assemblywoman Addie Jenne is calling on colleagues in the state Legislature to make it easier to prosecute those who pass a stopped school bus.

The “School Bus Camera Safety Act” (A.321) authorizes school districts and school bus transportation contractors to install school bus safety cameras, which engage once the stop arm of the bus is extended and the bus comes to a stop to pick up or discharge students, on their buses.

The bill would allow photos of the violator’s license plates to be used as evidence.

Under current law, a ticket can be issued only by a police officer who witnesses the violation. This bill permits the evidence taken from school bus safety cameras to be used in prosecuting violators of Section 1174 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law.

Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse sponsors the bill and Jenne is one of 44 co- and multi-sponsors of the legislation, which currently resides in the Assembly Transportation Committee. The Senate bill (S.518) is sponsored by Cathy Young, R-Olean.

“As the mom of two students, I know it makes no sense to delay moving this legislation forward until we are faced with a tragedy,” Jenne said. “We need to focus on moving this legislation forward during our next legislative session.”

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee reports that about 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses daily during the school year. In the past four years, 35 students have been hit by motorists passing school buses, and more school-age pedestrians are killed between 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. to 4 p.m. than at any other time of day.

The fines for illegally passing a school bus range from $250 if it is a first violation to $1,000 for three violations in three years.

The bill states that the cameras would be installed on the stop arm of the bus, capturing images of motor vehicles that overtake or pass school buses on the road. It also states that some of the money the motorists are fined will go back to the school districts.

In April, 70 police departments took part in the annual Operation Safe Stop in New York state. They issued a total of 1,037 tickets to motorists illegally passing school buses.

“The number of violations from state law enforcement is staggering, said Jenne, D-Theresa. “This is common sense legislation that would serve as another tool in the effort to reduce the number of motorists that violate laws … to protect the safety of students.”

The bill would take effect Nov. 1 after the passing date.