ALBANY, N.Y. — The State Senate has passed multiple bills that would crack down on illegal school bus passing by toughening penalties through increased fines and license suspension, and lawmakers are considering other similar bills.
S1064, which passed in the Senate on Wednesday and has been referred to the Assembly transportation committee, is one of several bills introduced by Sen. John Bonacic that aims to improve student and school bus safety.
The bill would toughen current penalties for passing a school bus illegally by adding a 60-day suspension of a motorist’s driver’s license when the motorist is convicted of illegal passing two or more times within a period of 10 years, according to a news release from Bonacic’s office. Current law provides that an individual convicted two or more times of speeding in a construction zone be subject to a 60-day suspension of his or her driver’s license, but does not provide the same penalty for passing a stopped school bus two or more times.
“This bill is intended to make our roads safer for our schoolchildren,” Bonacic said. “It’s bad enough that a driver passes a stopped school bus once, but to do it twice is unacceptable, and this law will dramatically impact those drivers who ignore this important law, and will encourage others to think twice when coming upon a stopped school bus.”
Meanwhile, S5898A, which passed the Senate on Thursday and has also been referred to the Assembly transportation committee, would double the fines for motorists convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus when there was a cell phone or electronic device in use at the time of the violation.
Two additional bills, advanced by Sen. Patty Ritchie, passed the State Senate last week.
The bills, which represent a multi-level response to the illegal passing of school buses, according to the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), include:
• S5733, which would increase penalties when death or serious injury occurs as a result of illegally passing a stopped school bus.
• S5897, which seeks to double the penalty for passing a stopped school bus — currently $50 to $400 for first offenses, and up to 30 days in jail — while driving a heavy-duty vehicle.
NYAPT has supported several proposals in the Legislature that deal with the issue of illegal passing of school buses, and the association estimates that some 50,000 motorists pass stopped school buses every day. Recent surveys conducted by the association of predominantly rural and suburban district areas reflects a rate in excess of 40,000 such passes each day. That number is an increase of approximately 11,000 over the average during the last school year, according to NYAPT.
NYAPT is calling on state lawmakers to take action on additional legislation on illegal school bus passing before they leave Albany for the summer:
• To help apprehend passers, S518/Young-A321/Magnarelli would allow images collected on stop-arm cameras to be used in issuing summonses to motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.
• To penalize violators more aggressively, S1023/Funke-A1207/Zebrowski would increase the fines for convictions related to illegal passing of stopped school buses and create crimes of vehicular assault and vehicular homicide for injuries or deaths resulting from such illegal passing.
• To educate the public and prevent illegal passing, A172/Gantt-S3276/Parker would create a dedicated fund from fines collected from convictions of illegal passing to support education related to school bus safety and the dangers of illegal passing.