Two New York school transportation associations partnered with law enforcement recently to bring the motoring public’s attention to the dangers of illegally passing stopped school buses by holding events statewide as part of Operation Safe Stop.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) and the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA), as well as local and state law enforcement and community leaders, participated in public education efforts for the campaign, which is now in its 26th year, from May 1 to May 3.
NYAPT-hosted events took place throughout the state, in Latham, Lafayette, Rochester, Kingston, and Bay Shore. The association also held a press conference in Rochester to highlight school bus passing incidences on May 2. Participants included pupil transportation managers, law enforcement agencies, state lawmakers, school transportation partners, and NYAPT representatives from across the state.
Statewide driver surveys conducted by NYAPT have indicated that motorists pass stopped school buses 50,000 times per day while red lights are flashing and students are being loaded or unloaded from school buses.
NYSBCA and some of its school bus company members also hosted Operation Safe Stop events throughout the state. In particular, Frank Klein, director of safety and training operations for Suffolk Transportation Service, worked with a local police officer to report illegal passing incidents on one of the company’s bus routes.
In addition to law enforcement, the school transportation associations partner with the New York State Bus Distributors Association, the PTA, state legislators, and the Governor Traffic Safety Committee on the campaign.
“We work to primarily educate the public on the serious issue of illegal passing of school buses, but it’s an enforcement effort as well,” David Christopher, the executive director of NYAPT, told School Bus Fleet. “Law enforcement works with us to drive home the message that it’s a very dangerous thing to do. It endangers kids who ride our buses.”
Both school transportation associations have over the years also called on the state Legislature to pass bills that would bolster school bus safety.
Most recently, A04950B, legislation sponsored by Assemblyman William Magnarelli, would allow the installation of stop-arm cameras on school buses to record images of motorists who illegally pass a school bus and help law enforcement issue tickets to the offenders.
Additionally, under the bill, school districts and local municipalities could submit an annual report to law enforcement to help track locations where these incidents occur most frequently. The ticket fines, which the bill raises from $250 to $275 for a second offense and $300 for a third offense, would be applied to the stop-arm cameras and GPS units placed on the buses, so school districts wouldn’t have to pay for them.
The bill has passed the Assembly, and the Senate is expected to pass it later this week, Christopher told SBF.
“Our goal as transportation professionals is to transport students to and from school safely each and every day,” said Thomas W. Smith, executive director of operations for Suffolk Transportation Service. “We are proud to be a part of this legislation allowing the installation of stop-arm cameras; this is a great solution that will enhance student safety within New York.”
Other bills that the associations have championed before include requiring school bus safety to be covered in the state’s pre-license driver education course. A00605 was referred to the Transportation Committee in January, according to the New York State Assembly’s website.
“We are proud that Operation Safe Stop has been such a huge success by promoting school bus safety through education and enforcement efforts,” said Bradley Gerstman, a spokesman for NYSBCA. “Student safety is our number-one priority and now, motorists will think twice before illegally passing a stopped school bus which occurs at an alarming 50,000 times a day in New York state.”