LATHAM, N.Y. — The New York School Bus Contractors Association joins with the National Association for Pupil Transportation in supporting National School Bus Safety Week by publicly supporting increased school bus safety legislation.

The legislation the association is backing includes increased penalties for motorists who pass a stopped school bus, tougher penalties for bus drivers who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol and expanded drug and alcohol testing for all bus drivers.  

“As champions of school bus safety, the New York School Bus Contractors Association is proud to support this year’s annual National School Bus Safety Week,” association President Robert Pape said. “School buses are, by far, the safest way for a child to get to and from school in New York, and our school districts and contractors are doing a phenomenal job. That said, there is more we can do to make that ride even safer, including passage of additional school bus safety legislation.”

The association supports passage of New York State Sen. John Bonacic’s bill, which calls for increased penalties for drivers who pass a stopped school bus. Currently, drivers ticketed for a first offense face up to 30 days in jail, a $400 fine, and a five-point penalty on their driver’s license. It is estimated that 50,000 motorists illegally pass stopped school buses each school day in New York state, according to the association.  

Bonacic’s bill also calls for the additional penalty of a 60-day suspension of a person’s driver’s license when convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus two or more times within a 10-year period. The bill, S. 1878/A.6610, also sponsored by Assemblyman Michael Cusick, is currently sitting in the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee, association officials said.  

In addition, the association supports passage of New York Sen. John Flanagan’s bill that would require all school bus drivers to be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing. Currently, only 10% of school bus drivers employed by a motor carrier are subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, and drivers of buses that carry fewer than 16 passengers are not required to take any type of drug and alcohol testing.  

Flanagan’s bill, S.7761, also calls for any failed drug and alcohol test to be reported to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and permanently disqualify a bus driver found operating a school bus while intoxicated from future licensure as a school bus driver. The bill also increases the prohibited time for consumption of alcohol prior to operating a school bus from six to eight hours.  

“We’re thrilled to throw our support behind this year’s National School Bus Safety Week and its promotion of school bus safety across the country,” Pape said. “Providing a safe ride to school and back home for over a million children every day in New York is the single most important thing we do as school bus contractors. Passage of this important school bus safety legislation will help us to continue to provide the safest pupil transportation services in the country.”