Governor Andrew Cuomo’s proposed Executive Budget, announced earlier this month, may be his most ambitious yet, propelled by new energy from a Democratic Majority in both houses of the State Legislature. Included in his budget is a sensible and overdue measure that looks to further protect children traveling to school from dangerous drivers. The bill authorizes school districts to install stop-arm cameras on all buses so that people who pass school buses while their lights are flashing will be caught and fined. There is little doubt that this legislation, sponsored in the NYS Senate by Senator Tim Kennedy, newly appointed Chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, and Assemblyman Bill Magnarelli (Syracuse), Chair of the NYS Assembly Transportation Committee, will save countless young lives.
With distracted driving on the rise, due in part to our addictive use of technology, ironically, this bill looks to use the same technology to create stricter punishments around people who pass school buses while the lights are flashing red and the stop-arm is engaged. Resulting in a statewide school bus safety camera program that would better enforce a monetary liability on the owner of a vehicle.
It is estimated that school buses are improperly passed over 7 million times per school year in New York State. The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) recently released survey data from 32 school districts which says, “1,086 school bus drivers reported they were passed a total of 883 times, including 32 passes on the passenger (or right) side of the school bus.” This annual survey has seen these numbers stay consistent or increase since 2016.
In 2018, more than 850 drivers were ticketed during Operation Safe Stop, a day when law enforcement officials target drivers passing stopped school buses.
The camera technology will capture vehicles illegally driving past stopped school buses and lead to motorists receiving a citation.
David Poirier, President of BusPatrol America says, “We use cutting edge technology to improve the safety of students riding school buses. Why should packages delivered to your homes have better technology assuring their safe delivery than what our kids have?” Poirier goes on to add, “Millions of times a day, school bus drivers stop and activate the red lights and stop-arm on their buses. Our children step off to cross the road, while either traveling to from school. School districts do a great job planning student pickup and transportation of the students. There is an innate trust in this process that parents and students can rely upon. But when a motorist blows by a stopped school bus, the trust is broken and children get hurt. Camera enforcement on school buses changes the behavior of motorists and improves safety.”
Thanks to companies like BusPatrol America, through high-tech data collection and video capture, tools now exist to collaborate with law enforcement in real time. “Our solution helps police issue tickets and enforce these lifesaving laws,” Poirier says, “by creating a culture of awareness and responsibility, as well as by correcting driver behavior. In fact, in other states that have deployed this technology, 98% of violators do not receive a second ticket.”
BusPatrol employs technicians which screen potential violations and municipal law enforcement agencies use the data and video to determine if violations have occurred. In addition to stop-arm cameras, there is also a real-time alert system that uses sensory data to generate instant text or email messages in case of potential emergencies.
In addition to the stop-arm cameras, the Governor’s proposal also calls for bus passengers to wear seat belts. New York was the first state to require lap seat belts be installed and operable on all buses manufactured after July 1, 1987, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. however, state policy allowed individual school boards to determine whether students were required to use the belts.”
The Executive Budget is expected to be approved by the State Legislature by April 1.