On Tuesday, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) released illegal school bus passing survey results taken on Jan. 20, which showed a slight dip in incidences compared to the last two months, though still reflected an increase over the October survey.
In the 29 school districts that participated, 1,057 school bus drivers reported that they were passed a total of 504 times, including 21 passes on the passenger side of the school bus.
At that rate of passing, when applied to over 50,000 school buses in New York state, the total estimated illegal passing rate is 23,841 passes for that day. Since October 2015, when NYAPT started conducting these surveys, the results have been as follows:
• October 2015: 19,129
• November 2015: 30,735
• December 2015: 32,456
• January 2016: 23,841
Of significant concern is the fact that, when calculated statewide, there were 993 passes on the passenger side of the bus, endangering children as they boarded and left their school buses, NYAPT officials said.
“We really have a problem here in New York. Our children are at risk of being injured or killed by passing motorists,” said David Adam, NYAPT president. “Our bus drivers see this every day and they know how our children are being endangered. And the number of right-side passes is just unacceptable. All of us need to do better than this for those kids.”
As part of its response to this problem, NYAPT is seeking legislation that will allow cameras to be mounted near the stop arms of school buses, and the evidence from those cameras to be used to prosecute motorists who pass stopped school buses illegally.
A recently proposed bill in South Carolina attempts to mitigate the problem by allowing car owners to be cited for stop-arm running even if they weren't at the wheel. Lawmakers in Virginia have proposed allowing police departments to mail summonses — instead of delivering them in person — to motorists caught on camera illegally passing school buses.
“Month after month, we have shared with the public the rate at which motorists are blowing by our school buses here in New York,” said Peter Mannella, NYAPT’s executive director. “This can’t go on without some increased apprehension and penalties. We urge the state Legislature and the governor to enact legislation that will allow stop-arm cameras to identify motorists who pass our stopped school buses, and to allow tickets to be issued based on those images. But mostly, we need for motorists to simply obey the law: stop for the bus. It’s all for the safety of our children.”