ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) has endorsed and called for the passage of legislation that would help in the prosecution of individuals who illegally pass stopped school buses.
The association has issued a memorandum of support for legislation introduced as A. 4416 by Assemblyman Peter Rivera (D-Bronx) and as S. 4062 by Sen. Catharine Young (R-Olean). The legislation would allow for prosecution of illegal passing violations based on photographic evidence as well as allow for citations to be issued to the registered owner of the vehicle, regardless of who was driving the vehicle at the time.
The bill would also provide that individuals who injure a person in the act of passing a school bus would be charged with aggravated assault, and those who kill a person in the act of passing a stopped school bus would be charged with criminally negligent homicide.
"We have urged the Legislature for several years to enact legislation that will make it easier for us to identify and issue citations to individuals who put our children at risk by passing school buses when their red lights are flashing," NYAPT President David Christopher of Shenendehowa Central School District said. "Motorists pass our school buses in violation of Section 1174 of the Vehicle and Traffic Law some 50,000 times each day. NYAPT believes that our children deserve better than that from us."
Executive Director Peter Mannella added that "NYAPT strongly supports the provisions of these bills, and we applaud Sen. Young and Assemblyman Rivera for their efforts to introduce and advance this important legislation. All that remains is for the Legislature and the governor to agree that this legislation should be enacted. Our members will be out in full force to convince them of the merits of this legislation."
Mannella also noted that the association participated in a pilot project in 2008 and 2009 that tested the effectiveness of digital license plate readers to capture the license plates of vehicles that passed stopped school buses.
"Those pilots showed us not only that the cameras can work effectively, but also that more motorists could be passing school buses than we previously estimated. Something needs to be done to eradicate illegal passing," Mannella said.
In addition to its support of the illegal bus passing bill, NYAPT has conducted Operation Safe Stop Day every year since 1993, a program in which local police agencies partner with school districts to identify areas where illegal passing incidents are high.
Each year, the program nets over 1,200 tickets written against motorists who pass stopped school buses. In 2011, there were over 1,603 tickets written — the second largest number in the history of the program, officials said.
Mannella noted that "the law is clear and the message is equally clear: Stop for the school bus! We do not understand how people can just drive past something that large and that yellow with all those lights and say they didn't see it."