ALBANY, N.Y. — Tougher penalties for stop-arm runners and funding for school bus replacement are among the many issues on the 2018 agenda for New York’s governor.
On Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo presented his annual State of the State address, which covered a broad sweep of economic, educational, and environmental priorities.
Cuomo’s more detailed State of the State policy book includes several school bus-related initiatives that are “good for children and good for New York,” according to New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) Executive Director Peter Mannella.
Cuomo’s policy book notes that more than 1,000 people were cited for illegally passing stopped school buses during New York’s Operation Safe Stop Day in April 2017. To enhance student safety, Cuomo said that this year he will work to increase the state's fines for stop-arm running.
NYAPT, which has been conducting monthly surveys of school bus passing, voiced its support for Cuomo’s call for steeper fines as well as two of his other initiatives.
One is to include school buses in New York’s plan for replacing old diesel vehicles with its $127.7 million share of the Volkswagen settlement mitigation funding. According to Cuomo’s policy book, the plan “will prioritize replacement of diesel vehicles with emission-free electric vehicles, stimulating the transformation to a low-carbon transportation system.”
Still, NYAPT said in a statement that it would work with state agencies “to allow flexibility for districts and operators to employ clean technologies that meet their needs.”
NYAPT also expressed its support for Cuomo’s push for increased engagement on bullying and harassment of students in schools and on school buses. On that front, the association and its Cyr Foundation recently began offering an educational program designed to increase awareness and sensitivity of school bus personnel to gender-related issues on the bus.
“We are so pleased that the governor has called attention to the importance of school bus safety for all our children by advancing these proposals for action in our state,” NYAPT President Lori-Ann Savino said. “We look forward to being an active part of their development and enactment.”
The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) voiced its approval for Cuomo's proposal to raise stop-arm violation fines.
“Unfortunately, with estimates showing as many as 40,000 drivers in New York illegally passing a stopped school bus every day school is in session, it is clear that current penalties are not enough to act as a deterrent," NYSBCA President Bree Allen said. "We continue to strongly support the passage of complementary bills, sponsored by New York state senators Rich Funke and John Bonacic, to increase the penalties on drivers who continue to break the law and put our children in danger.”
Under current New York law, drivers convicted of a first stop-arm offense face up to 30 days in jail, a fine of $250 to $400, and a five-point penalty on their license. Cuomo's State of the State policy book does not indicate how much he would seek to raise the penalties.
News that drew the most traffic on the School Bus Fleet website this year covered illegal school bus passing, a petition for tougher penalties on stop-arm running, and student and driver fatalities in the danger zone.
Feature articles that drew the most traffic on the School Bus Fleet website in 2018 included tips on school bus safety, electric school buses, and student behavior management.
Kimberly Ann Austin of North Carolina allegedly crosses the center lane and runs a school bus off the road, injuring 13 students. She is charged with driving while impaired and driving left of center.
New York is the 19th state to allow the Gardian Angel safety lighting system as optional equipment.
The Idaho State Department of Education’s public service announcement asks motorists to be engaged and "watch for school buses as they pick up and drop off kids.”
Nevada driver Greg Hoeger uses the buses' horn to warn the student of the vehicle that fails to stop for the bus.
The Pennsylvania bus driver loses control of the bus, causing it to roll over off of the road. No students were on board.
A 17-year-old student from New Academy (Pa.) Charter School is riding his school bus when he is shot in the shoulder. He is taken to the hospital in stable condition.
Silus Hunsinger of Pennsylvania is hit and killed by a pickup truck while crossing the road to his school bus stop.
A semi tractor-trailer reportedly enters the opposite lane of traffic and collides head-on with a school bus in Illinois, killing the driver of the truck and a school volunteer, police said.
Nolan Barry and Thomas MacKeen of New Hampshire see the driver fall from her seat to the floor while the bus is still moving. They calm students down and gain the attention of a parent nearby.
Prince Edward Island motorists who fail to stop for a school bus with its red lights flashing will receive 12 demerit points, causing their license to be suspended for three months. They will also be fined $5,000.
The school bus, which is transporting 39 students, is rear-ended by a truck. One student dies and several others are taken to the hospital.
With many areas of the country already experiencing snow and ice, which can mean dangerous driving conditions, First Student is offering some winter driving safety tips.