ALBANY, N.Y. — Legislation has been drafted that would require alcohol ignition interlocks to be used on school buses in the state as a way to prevent drunk drivers from getting behind the wheel of a bus.
The breath test device links to a vehicle’s ignition system and prevents it from starting if alcohol is detected in the driver’s breath.
“School bus drivers literally hold students’ lives in their hands,” said Sen. Charles Fuschillo Jr., chairman of the Senate’s transportation committee and a co-sponsor of the bill. “We have strong laws to hold bus drivers accountable after they have been drinking; now we need to prevent them from even having the chance to drive drunk behind the wheel of a bus. Requiring school buses to be equipped with ignition interlocks will provide a defense against drunk driving for children who can’t defend themselves.”
Earlier this month, a school bus carrying five children crashed into a Syosset, N.Y., home after its driver passed out behind the wheel. The driver of the bus was charged with five counts each of aggravated DWI, endangering the welfare of a child, reckless endangerment and two counts of DWI. The Associated Press reports that the driver pled not guilty to the charges.
Under the legislation, all school buses manufactured after July 1, 2013, for use in New York state would be required to come equipped with an alcohol ignition interlock device. The proposed law would also give local boards of education the authority to adopt a resolution to install ignition interlocks in school buses manufactured prior to July 1, 2013.
In another recent incident, a school bus driver was pulled over on the Long Island Expressway after 911 operators received reports that he was driving with a shredded tire and had trouble controlling the vehicle.
The driver was arrested after police found his blood alcohol level to be .23, which is 10 times the legal limit for a commercial driver. The driver, who also had a half empty vodka bottle with him in the bus, told police that he had just dropped off middle school students from the Three Village Central School District in East Setauket, N.Y.
Officials for the company that the driver works for told CBS New York that he is suspended without pay pending an internal investigation by the company’s safety department.
Parents and others in the state joined Fuschillo and Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice, who supports the bill, in calling for the new law.
“Our children are our future, and their safety needs to be paramount,” said Marge Lee, president and co-founder of DEDICATEDD, a non-profit organization that educates on the dangers of drunken driving. “It is far better to be proactive and prevent tragedies before they happen rather than reactive when it’s too late. DEDICATEDD supports this measure to help protect children.”