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Sen. Young wants cameras on school buses to prosecute dangerous drivers

Supporters are looking into legislation that allow schools buses to have cameras installed which would record people who illegally pass the buses when they are stopped to pick up a child, subsequently resulting in a ticket. Photo by Clara Smith.
May 13, 2013
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation voiced their support for legislation (S.5028) that would allow the installation and use of stop arm cameras on school buses.

The purpose of this legislation, sponsored by Sen. Catharine Young, R-Olean, is to identify and prosecute motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses, endangering students.

Young cited the example of Ellen Driscoll from Bethlehem Central School District, "Just last week, when she was driving, in one day she had her school bus passed while it was stopped seven times in just one day; that is truly alarming."

Some of the provisions in the bill include authorizing the installation of video recording devices on school buses, specifically on or near the stop arm which holds the flashing stop sign; authorizing the use of images collected by those video recording devices to be used to prosecute individuals who illegally pass stopped school buses; and establishing a minimum fine between $250 and $400 with no points for a first violation when the violation is based on camera-based evidence.

Young provided examples of numerous children struck by cars while illegally passing stopped school buses, including Mallory Eddy from Stockbridge Valley Central School District in Madison County who was struck by a motorist as she stepped off the bus and was killed at the scene in front of her home.

"The driver was not fined for illegally passing or convicted for her death," Young said.

Joining Young at an Albany press conference last Tuesday were bus drivers from around the state and distributors of stop arm technology to demonstrate the cameras and share the images of cars and trucks passing school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off students.

According to the Pupil Transportation Association, school districts would be allowed to enter agreements with local law enforcement agencies in relation to the fines collected through use of video recording devices installed on school buses, including the capacity to receive funds to support costs incurred by the district through the use and maintenance of the cameras. School districts would also be allowed to enter into contracts with private vendors for installation, processing, notification and other administrative functions related to the enforcement process.

Bill Lowry of the New York State Council of School Superintendents said the bill allows school districts to receive state aid for the cameras, which would give them a reimbursement percentage of the costs. Lowry is in support of this bill because it does not force any district to use these cameras, but it provides the option if they choose to do so.

Lowry says he is shocked by the number of incidents that occur with people illegally passing buses and says the bill makes perfect sense.

Peter Mannella, executive director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, said the number of cameras used and the way each district goes about purchasing the cameras is up to the discretion of the district. He said there are certain regions of the state that are in more need of these cameras than others and the schools are well aware of this and will most likely use the cameras accordingly.

The bill also establishes a School Bus Safety Education Program fun derived from fines collected due to violations of motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.

The New York State School Boards Association is also in support of this bill saying it is a safety issue and they support that.

Other states that enacted similar legislation include Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut and Washington.

The legislation has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee. There is no same-as bill in the Assembly.

"I am going to work as hard as I can to get it passed in the Senate, we are looking for Assembly sponsors; we are very hopeful that Gov. Andrew Cuomo will support this initiative," Young said.

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