School bus safety will be part of driver education curriculum, under new law

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation (S.2960-b/A.605-a) on Wednesday that will change the state’s driver education books, curriculum and exams to now include information on school bus safety laws.

The bill was introduced by Senator Anna Kaplan and Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal and passed both houses of the Legislature earlier this year.

This new law requires a new school bus safety component in the pre-licensing written test given by the Department of Motor Vehicles, and mandates there be at least one exam question pertaining to school bus safety.

“As lawmakers, we have a solemn duty to ensure that we take every step necessary to ensure the safety of the children in our communities,” kaplan said. “So when we have a situation where an estimated 40,000 drivers in New York are illegally passing school buses each day, we have a crisis on our hands that demands attention.”

The new law has the support of the New York School Bus Contractors Association.

“[We have] worked on this meaningful piece of legislation since day one with the goal of ensuring that all new drivers in this state fully understand that regardless of whether you are late to get to your destination, it is not worth a child’s life,” said Association President Corey Muirhead. “Slow down, be alert and stop for school buses.”

Kaplan, D- Great Neck, is also urging school districts in Nassau County and across the state to opt-in to bus mounted cameras to enforce road safety laws and to protect students.

In August, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation allowing school districts to mount cameras to school bus stop-arms to catch drivers illegally passing a stopped school bus while students are getting on and off the bus.

Nassau County Police issued 79 tickets to vehicles that passed or went around a school bus last year; state officials said more than 850 people violated the law on a single day in April 2018. Studies estimate that more than 40,000 drivers in New York illegally pass school buses each day.

In order to enact a program and install cameras on their school buses, local school boards must first opt-in to the program, which is fully funded by fines collected, and has no cost burden to local schools.

First time offenders will be fined $250, the second time will be $275 and the third time will cost $300.