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October 25, 2012  |   Comments (7)   |   Post a comment

Bill would require alcohol interlocks on school buses

By Kelly Roher


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.”

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Read more about: New York

That's not true...The Interlock device WILL NOT SHUT-OFF the engine on itself. Yes, it will ask for a re-test, but its a programmable feature. I have two boys that take the bus everyday - its a horror story reading this alarming growing trend!! I am for the law as I rather know my kids are being transported safely to-and-from school, vs. not knowing if the driver is impaired or not. The peace of mind of all parents will definitely increase knowing the engine will not start, should the driver decide to drink and drive.

Its about time!!    |    Oct 29, 2013 04:07 PM

Though I understand the importance of preventing a driver who has been drinking to get behind the wheel of a school bus, I'm not sure of the practicality of requiring an ignition interlock system installed on buses. What of the "rolling tests"? A driver may not have enough time to find a safe place to pull over with a bus full of children before alarms sound and the engine shuts off. That, in itself, could be a very dangerous situation. This sounds like plan that looks really good on paper, but not practical in the real world.

Rita Parkin    |    Oct 31, 2012 07:57 PM

I as a school bus driver have mixed feelings on this. If it was something that wouldn't bankrupt the companies, I would do it and not think twice about it. I think it would be great because unfortunately it is a problem. I was a driver trainer safety supervisor for 8 yrs and to say it doesnt happen is unrealistic. Many of the safer companies do random drug and alcohol tests, and it has stopped alot of but not all the issues. But then we need something that would test blood for substance abuse which I see much more of in this day and age. Unfortunately in this economy I dont see putting a breathalyzer in each bus as viable. Maybe if they had one breathalyzer as a time clock then you dont have to worry about the cost of all buses having something like this although a wonderful idea is not feasible. The schools are looking at ways to cut money including cutting transportation altogether. To pass a bill to make the companies have to have them is something that will be used to eliminate buses altogether and then you will have uneducated children do to lack of ability to get to and from school.

Jessica Meyer    |    Oct 30, 2012 04:05 PM

I have a question of the congressman and/or congresswoman that proposed this law. Do they or a close relative own stock in the firms that manufacture these breatherlizer ingnition interlock devices. So far we have a GPS unit tracking the bus drivers' every turn and a pre-trip tracker that will soon include a headmounted camera to trac things that way also. But guess what? The school bus drivers wages are steadily dropping, while all this expensive non-sense is going on. Poor pay leads to very high rates of staff-turnover and uncaring people. Forget the expensive spyware tools. Come on. How many drunken school bus drivers are there out there in your state or province? Please get realistic and work towards the REAL basis of the problem.

BeeBopEh    |    Oct 29, 2012 02:51 PM

Have these people nothing better to do but come up with new ways to waste money? If you do it for the school bus industry it must be done for the general motoring public. If not that means the general public is not as important. Spending thousands of taxpayer money doesn't solve the problem all it means is these companies will keep older buses longer. Go the problem, put these people in jail and stop the plea bargianing. Dispatch has to see these drivers face to face and determine if they have been drinking. What's to stop a person whose has been drinking to get a family member or friend to blow into this device in their place, then the drunk goes on his/her way.

Mr Kim Baker    |    Oct 26, 2012 11:45 AM

i didn't realize there were so many problems of this nature!

marty hess    |    Oct 26, 2012 05:52 AM

Shouldn't it be required on ALL vehicles not just school buses?

Bart    |    Oct 25, 2012 02:26 PM

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