ALBANY, N.Y. — The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) has expressed disapproval over the actions of a school bus driver who was charged with driving while intoxicated last month.

Officials said the driver was transporting private school students in the Brighton Central School District and was having difficulty navigating a barrier at a gas station after dropping off her students at their school. Police report that they administered a sobriety test prior to charging the driver with driving while intoxicated.

"We are grateful that there were no children injured or involved in this incident," said Peter Mannella, executive director of the association.

NYAPT said in a statement that it wants parents and the general public to know that school districts and school bus operators carry out specific responsibilities to preclude such incidents from occurring, including:

• Obtaining personal references for all new school bus drivers.
• Conducting criminal background checks to ensure that drivers do not have inappropriate convictions.
• Performing pre-employment and random drug and alcohol tests in accordance with federal regulations.
• Performing behavior observations of all school bus drivers on a daily basis.
• Training school bus drivers on proper practices and conduct to ensure they understand their roles.

"The school transportation community in our state works very hard to ensure that every school bus is safe and every school bus driver is properly prepared and ready to drive our children to school each day,” NYAPT President Richard Gallagher said. “The school bus drivers in our state are trained and dedicated to the safety of the children on their school buses. Sadly, we see in this instance that the actions of one school bus driver spoil our record of safety for the more than 2.3 million children who ride yellow school buses to and from school each day."

NYAPT said that it is supporting extensive legislation as introduced by Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) and Assembly member Donna Lupardo (D-Endwell) that would strengthen random alcohol testing and driver observation procedures.

The legislation would also expand the extent to which school bus operators must test school bus drivers above and beyond minimum federal requirements and impose new penalties on drivers who test positively for drugs or alcohol.

The legislation remains in the transportation committees of each house of the New York State Assembly. NYAPT said it will advocate for its passage and enactment in the 2014 legislative session.

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