LATHAM, N.Y. — The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) hosted an Operation Safe Stop event here on Thursday to promote the importance of stopping for school buses that are loading or unloading students.
“Every day school is in session, our school bus drivers see drivers putting children in danger by illegally passing stopped school buses,” NYSBCA President Mike Martucci said. “A single incident is one too many, and drivers need to realize that they must stop when they see those red lights flashing on a school bus.”
NYSBCA’s Operation Safe Stop Day event was held at Marlboro Elementary School with a variety of local, county, and state officials.
The association also used the occasion to again call for the passage of legislation to increase the penalties for illegally passing a stopped school bus. Currently, drivers convicted of a first offense face up to 30 days in jail, a fine of $250 to $400, and a five-point penalty on their license. According to NYSBCA, the current penalties do not go far enough to act as a deterrent.
Sen. Rich Funke’s bill (S.1023) would increase the range of fines for illegally passing a stopped school bus to a minimum of $400 and a maximum of $1,500, depending on the number of convictions. The legislation would also require an aggravated vehicular assault charge for a driver who injures someone while passing a school bus. If a person is killed in the incident, the legislation would require a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
“School bus drivers work hard every day to protect the students they transport, and it’s on all of us to ensure that our kids are every bit as safe when entering or exiting a bus,” Funke said. “Operation Safe Stop is an important tool to remind drivers that the law is clear: When you see a school bus’s red flashing lights, you must stop, no matter where on the road the bus is.”
Senator John Bonacic’s bill (S.1064) calls for the additional penalty of a 60-day license suspension for a driver who is convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus two or more times within a 10-year period.
“Increasing penalties on those who would put our school children in harm’s way by speeding past a stopped school bus is a no-brainer,” Bonacic said. “I will continue to work with the advocates and my colleagues in the Legislature to get this bill passed.”
Funke’s and Bonacic’s bills have been advanced by the New York State Senate in the past, but they have failed to move in the Assembly.
Paul Daniels, president of the New York State Bus Distributors Association, also voiced support for the stop-arm legislation and for Operation Safe Stop.
"We proudly support Operation Safe Stop and call on New York drivers to be more aware of the importance of stopping when they see the red lights flashing on a school bus,” Daniels said. “We look forward to continuing to work with the state Legislature to increase penalties on those who illegally pass a school bus.”