ALBANY, N.Y. — A new state law will allow 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.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed the bills, S4524B/A4950B, into law on Tuesday, according to a news release from Cuomo’s office. As SBF previously reported, the law also allows school districts and local municipalities to submit an annual report to law enforcement to help track locations where these incidents occur most frequently.
The ticket fines, which are $250 for a first offense, and which the bill raises from $250 to $275 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense, would be applied to the purchase of stop-arm cameras and GPS units placed on the buses, so school districts wouldn’t have to pay for them. A motorist found to have violated the law will not receive points on their driver’s license, and the violation can’t be considered by insurance companies to issue penalties.
In New York state, approximately 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school every year, according to Cuomo’s office.
"No parent should ever have to worry that their child's bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy," Cuomo said. "By signing this measure into law, we are providing school districts the tools they need to hold reckless drivers accountable and advancing New York state's bold initiatives to keep our schoolchildren safe."
Cuomo also signed legislation earlier this year to reinstate the speed camera program in New York City and expand the number of authorized school speed zones from 140 to 750, according to Cuomo’s office. The bill also expanded the hours of the program to weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Additionally, in 2016 he updated laws to improve student safety by requiring school districts to designate a point of contact in case of emergency, increase training requirements for faculty and staff, and update safety drills to include a lockdown event.
Sen. Tim Kennedy, the sponsor of S4524B, said that statewide, 50,000 motorists illegally pass school buses every day.
“This is simply unacceptable," Kennedy added. "By enacting this comprehensive legislation that ensures stricter enforcement of these crimes, we're sending a strong message: if you pass a stopped school bus in New York, you're going to get caught, you're going to be fined, and you're going to be held accountable. I thank the governor for signing this bill, which will undoubtedly save lives, and for prioritizing the safety of New York's students."
David Christopher, the executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), told School Bus Fleet that the association has advocated for stop-arm cameras for several years and is “pleased to see the law finally enacted. [We] feel this law will help protect our children who ride our buses.”
“We look forward in working with our law enforcement partners in using this new tool to address the serious issue of illegal passing of school buses," Christopher added.
The leader of the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) told SBF that Tuesday was “a big win for school bus safety.”
“We cannot thank the New York state Legislature or our governor enough, for making school bus transportation even safer for our children,” said Corey Muirhead, the NYSBCA’s president.
Muirhead added that NYSBCA leadership had worked on the bills for years and noted that Operation Safe Stop, an annual school bus safety campaign it conducts with the NYAPT and law enforcement to make the motoring public aware of illegal school bus passing, has successfully promoted school bus safety through education and enforcement efforts.
“The governor’s signature is a welcome acknowledgment that when school bus companies, school districts, transportation safety advocates, parents and teachers, all get together, our state government will work for that which is in the public’s best interest,” Muirhead said.
During the 2018 edition of Operation Safe Stop, law enforcement ticketed over 850 motorists for illegally passing school buses, which amounts to someone passing a stopped school bus over 150,000 times in a 180-day school year, according to Cuomo’s office.
Other states, including Maine and Oklahoma, have recently signed bills into law allowing stop-arm cameras on school buses. Additionally, lawmakers in a handful of other states, including California, Florida, and Delaware, are considering bills that would allow stop-arm cameras. Meanwhile, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a school bus safety bill into law that, among other measures, allows some reimbursement for stop-arm camera equipment.