A New York association organized a coalition to remind motorists last week that school buses will soon be back on the road and that everyone is required to stop for a stopped school bus.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation’s (NYAPT’s) statewide coalition, which was composed of school transportation officials, school administrators, parent advocates, industry representatives, and law enforcement officials, provided the public with the reminder after school buses have been largely absent from the road for the past several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At an event held at the South Colonie Central School District (CSD) transportation center in Colonie, N.Y., on Sept. 9, NYAPT members were joined by Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple; Paul Overbaugh, state director of pupil transportation at New York State Education Department; Aubrey Feldman, child passenger safety program coordinator at the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee; Kyle Belokopitsky, executive director of the New York State PTA; Mike Sweeney, traffic safety educator at Hudson Valley AAA; Paul Daniels from the New York Bus Distributors Association; and Christopher Robilotti, assistant superintendent for human resources for South Colonie CSD.
The group reminded motorists that the New York State Vehicle and Traffic law requires all vehicles to come to a full stop when approaching a school bus stopped with red lights flashing, according to a news release from the NYAPT. Coalition members also explained how they have been working together to tackle the unique challenges posed by COVID-19. School districts have been implementing new cleaning and social distancing procedures, based on guidelines provided by the CDC and New York State Department of Health to keep children safe.
“Schools will open soon across New York state after nearly six months of shutdown due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. It has been awhile, but once again, the familiar yellow school bus will be seen on our streets and roads picking up and dropping off school children,” said Harold Nicholson, the NYAPT’s president. “We ask motorists to be especially mindful of the fact our school buses will be out in full force and we remind you that you must stop for stopped school buses with red lights flashing.”
“Our members are proud to be a part of one of New York’s largest public-private partnerships comprising school districts, private transportation providers, and school bus distributors,” Daniels said. “In everything we do, safety is our top priority. So while we work to provide state-of-the-art school buses to keep our children safe, we need the help of the public to make sure they are following all the vehicle and traffic laws that are designed to avoid accidents and protect our children throughout the entire school year.”
New York state law prohibits the passing of a school bus that is stopped with red lights flashing regardless of the direction of travel. The penalties for a first-time offense include a fine from $250 to $400, five points on the offender’s license, and the possibility of 30 days in jail. A second conviction within three years will result in a $600 to $750 fine and up to 180 days in jail; three or more convictions will result in a fine from $750 to $1,000, mandatory revocation of the offender’s driver’s license, and up to 180 days in jail.
The state’s recently passed stop-arm camera law also automatically levies fines to the owner of any vehicle that passes a stopped school bus with red lights flashing. Those fines are $250 for the first violation and up to $300 for subsequent violations.
NYAPT also noted that 2.3 million children ride school buses to and from school every day in New York state.