On Thursday, Operation Safe Stop Day is taking place across New York, with the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) coordinating events for the day for the 23rd year, since its inception in 1993.
During Operation Safe Stop Day, local police officers, county sheriff patrols, and state police officers will monitor traffic around school buses and will be on the alert for motorists who illegally pass school buses. Their efforts will focus on bus stops in areas that school officials indicate are problem areas for school buses.
“NYAPT wants to thank all those thousands of motorists who stop for stopped school buses. We appreciate the respect you show for our children and for those yellow buses. But beyond that, the issue of illegal passing of school buses presents a serious risk of harm to our children,” said NYAPT President David Adam. “NYAPT joins with all who care about the safety of our children in striving to eliminate illegal passing in New York state. We annually observe Operation Safe Stop Day simply because this behavior places our children at risk each and every time they board or leave their school bus.”
“We thank the state police and the dozens of police agencies and sheriff patrols who are working in cooperation with school districts and school bus operators all across the state today to protect our children,” said NYAPT Operation Safe Stop Chair Thomas Weeks.
On Monday, the NYAPT released the results of a survey taken on April 13 to measure the incidence of motorists illegally passing stopped school buses. In the 24 school districts that participated, 732 school bus drivers reported they were passed a total of 485 times, including seven passes on the right side of the school bus.
At that rate of passing, when applied to over 50,000 school buses operating statewide, the total estimated illegal passing rate is 33,128 passes for that day. That same calculation would mean that 478 motorists passed school buses on the passenger side of the bus on that date.
NYAPT Executive Director Peter Mannella called the survey results “unacceptable.”
“When parents send their children to school, they should not fear for their safety because of another motorist’s careless and reckless behavior,” he added. “We urge motorists to stop when the bus has its red lights flashing. That means that students are boarding or disembarking school buses. One of those students could be someone you know or a member of your family.”
Monthly surveys of illegal passing incidents conducted by NYAPT have found an increasing number of estimated incidents since they started tracking them in October.
The NYAPT is advocating for the state Senate and Assembly to pass legislation that will allow cameras to be mounted on school buses and the evidence from those cameras to be used to prosecute motorists who pass stopped school buses illegally. NYAPT believes there is significant support for that legislation (S3509B-Sen. Catharine Young and A1520B-Assemblyman William Magnarelli) and that it would pass in both houses if it came to a vote.