Schumer noted in a conference call with reporters that in New York state, more than 50,000 motorists illegally pass school buses every day, according to a news release from the senator’s office.
Schumer added that many states — including New York — have started establishing programs mandating the installation of stop-arm cameras to enforce traffic laws.
As of August, School Bus Fleet previously reported, state law allows school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses to catch motorists who illegally pass stopped buses and help law enforcement issue tickets to those offenders.
However, federal rules lag behind the states, Schumer said. He pointed to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which began investigating the worthiness of a federal requirement for stop-arm cameras in 2015.
The agency, according to Schumer, was set to issue a report by early 2018, but has not yet released any data or recommendations. He urged NHTSA to expedite the release of its study, and if necessary, implement new safety guidelines for stop-arm cameras and establish federal funding opportunities for installation.
“My message to the feds is simple: it’s time to slow down cars and speed up the release of this potentially life-saving report, and if deemed necessary, change safety standards to require the installation of these cameras on all new school buses,” Schumer said.
Additionally, Schumer added, a potential rulemaking prompted by the report’s release could open the door for pupil transporters to receive federal funding for stop-arm cameras.
Funding for the equipment may be necessary for some districts in New York. David Christopher, the executive director for the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, told the Times Union that the expense is a hurdle for adding the cameras to their school bus fleet. For pupil transportation providers with 20 to 40 buses, the cost adds up at $1,000 per bus, he added.
A copy of Schumer’s letter to NHTSA appears below.
“Dear Acting Administrator Owens:
I write to you request you take action on a matter of utmost importance: the safety of our country’s schoolchildren while they are traveling in school buses to and from school.
Too many drivers currently violate the law by whizzing past school buses when the arm of the “Stop” sign on the bus is fully extended, and, in the worst cases, cause serious injuries and even death. Nationwide, 25% of students — or about 19 million students — ride school buses to school and school-associated activities each year. Yet in a 2018 survey, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services reports that more than 100,000 school bus drivers observed almost 85,000 vehicles illegally passing school buses in a single day. In my home state of New York alone, more than 50,000 drivers illegally pass school buses each day. Furthermore, 75% of all school bus fatalities are attributed to oncoming vehicles. While thankfully the number of children who die each year from walking to and from a stopped bus is low, many are hit and injured. Even one death from drivers illegally passing school buses is one death too many.
To address this problem, over 21 states across the country, including my home state of New York, have either begun programs or allowed local districts to carry out programs to install cameras on school bus stop signs as a means enforcement safety laws and a preventative deterrent. When drivers know they are being watched, they are more careful to obey laws, such as stopping when school buses are stopped. These states believe school bus cameras will keep our children safe while they are engaging in one of the most important activities for success: attending school.
As global leader in motor vehicle and highway safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has long been at the forefront of preventing deaths and serious injuries of children who ride school buses. To combat this frightening scenario, I understand your agency has collected data for a study on the effectiveness of adding cameras to the stop signs on school buses as a safety measure. NHTSA’s work to evaluate how cameras can serve as a deterrent to reduce school bus stop-arm violations is a step in the right direction to address this alarming issue. However, it has been four years since the study was announced without any results, and it has been over ten years since NHTSA revised its safety program guidelines for student transportation, which states use to minimize the danger of death or injury to school children while they are traveling to and from school.
For the safety of our students, the time has come to see the results of NHTSA’s study of school bus cameras and build on these findings to protect our country’s young students from injury and death. Accordingly, I call on NHTSA to swiftly release this study and, if deemed fit, to revise its safety guidelines to recommend that all states implement stop-arm camera enforcement programs.”