New York state pupil transportation associations and agencies, law enforcement, and a safety technology supplier came together to commemorate Operation Safe Stop Day and unveil a stop-arm camera program on Thursday.
This year’s event is a cooperative project supported by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), the New York State Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, New York State Education Department, New York State School Bus Contractors Association, and state, county, city, and local law enforcement agencies, according to a news release from NYAPT.
The annual event held to promote school bus safety and educate the public about the dangers of illegally passing a stopped school bus when its red lights are flashing. Statewide surveys conducted by NYAPT have indicated that motorists pass stopped school buses 50,000 times per day while red lights are flashing, and students are being loaded or unloaded from school buses.
During Operation Safe Stop Day, law enforcement throughout the state followed school buses and issued tickets to drivers who illegally passed them.
“Keeping children safe when they take that school bus to and from school each day is our top priority and we urge drivers to do their part to keep our students safe,” said Ted Nugent, NYAPT’s president and the transportation director at Coxsackie-Athens School District. “We ask the public to avoid all distractions while driving, to be aware of school buses that are on our roadways, and to always stop when they see those red lights flashing on a school bus. Student lives depend on all drivers following the law.”
Under New York state vehicle and traffic law, penalties for a first stop-arm running offense include a fine from $250 to $400, five points on the motorist’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 lead to a fine from $750 to $1,000, mandatory revocation of the motorist’s driver’s license, and up to 180 days in jail.
“Young kids have many worries regarding school and traveling safely to school shouldn’t be one of them,” said Craig D. Apple Sr., Albany County Sheriff. “So please slow down and watch for school buses either stopping or about to stop. Don’t be one of the 50,000 who illegally pass stopped school buses daily in New York.”
NYAPT chapters throughout the state held Operation Safe Stop Day events, including one at school bus company Suffolk Transportation Service’s headquarters, to promote Suffolk County’s rollout of a stop-arm camera school bus safety program. The county is the first in the state to use the cameras to record drivers illegally passing stopped school buses, according to NYAPT.
Suffolk County’s program utilizes camera technology from BusPatrol Inc. and is expected to go live on May 1.
As part of the program, school bus fleets at more than 60 participating school districts (over 4,000 buses) will be equipped with advanced safety technology, including BusPatrol cloud-connected stop-arm cameras, according to a news release from the supplier.
In addition to stop-arm cameras, school transportation departments will have access to all of the supplier’s safety technology, including interior cameras, GPS, telemetry, and live fleet information.
The technology, installation, and maintenance has been provided at no cost to the school districts, county, or taxpayers. Violation revenue will be used to fund the program and awareness campaigns to educate communities on school bus safety.
Since March 1, BusPatrol and Suffolk County have been raising awareness about the danger of stop-arm violations and the start of the new safety program. The 60-day education period has included road signage, school bus bumper stickers, a PSA campaign across TV, radio, print, and social media, and school-based outreach and student driver education. The PSAs warned drivers about the dangers of illegally passing school buses and the presence of new automated enforcement tools.
“Every day in New York state, more than 2.3 million children rely on the big yellow bus to get to and from school,” said Jean Souliere, CEO and founder of BusPatrol. “It is essential that all of these children have access to safety technology that exists to protect them and deter reckless drivers.”
“NYAPT commends Suffolk County’s elected officials, school superintendents, boards of education, school transportation directors, and school bus contractors for supporting and implementing this new technology to help keep our students safe,” said Nicole Dolce, NYAPT’s Operation Safe Stop Committee Chair, and supervisor of transportation at the Eastchester Union Free School District. “Other counties throughout the state will be following suit with their own stop-arm camera programs, and we’re optimistic that this will be another effective tool to ensure the safe transportation of our students.”