In order to safeguard New York children on school buses, state lawmakers have passed a series of bills that protect both students and bus drivers from unwanted passengers and hazardous motorists.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) has recently thrown its support behind two bills that combat the issue of passing school buses illegally.
One bill increased fines and criminal penalties for drivers who illegally passed stopped school buses. The other bill imposed a 60-day suspension of a person’s drivers’ license after they are convicted of passing a stopped school bus two or more times.
The latter bill also charged violators with aggravated vehicular assault if a passenger is injured, and criminally negligent homicide if a person is killed.
“When over 1,000 tickets are issued in one day, it’s clear that the penalties for drivers who put our children at risk do not go far enough,” said NYSBCA President Robert Pape.
These bills have been passed by the senate and are currently sitting in the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee.
The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) applauds the decisions of lawmakers to make student safety a priority. The New York Senate recently advanced a bill that will make the unlawful boarding of a school bus a crime.
“The 2.3 million children who travel on yellow school buses each day are entitled to know that their bus and their bus driver are safe and secure,” said NYAPT President David Adam.
Individuals accused of defying the explicit directions of the bus driver and not exiting, according to Bill S2138A, will be charged with criminal trespass in the second degree.
If the individual is found in possession of a weapon, that charge is bumped up to first-degree criminal trespass. The bill also addressed the actions of motorists who impede or delay the progress of a school bus.
The bill was advanced was in response to a large number of incidents where people illegally boarded a bus and verbally or physically accosted a driver.
This legislation, according to NYAPT Executive Director Peter Mannella, will make it clear that there is zero tolerance for actions that places children and bus drivers at risk. “These kinds of behavior are unacceptable and present real dangers to the children we transport,” said Mannella.
The NYAPT is confident the senate will vote on the bill and the state assembly will be consider the companion bill. Hopefully, Mannella stated, the legislation is enacted before both the senate and assembly close session.
The senate and assembly may also consider legislation that will allow cameras installed on school buses to help identify motorists who illegally pass school buses that are stopped. The senate bill recently cleared the New York State Senate Transportation Committee, but has not gone further.
The NYAPT believes there is strong support in both houses. “It is important that we allow these cameras to be on our school buses to allow our drivers to drive rather than have to record details about the cars that pass them,” said Adam.
One survey noted that over 50,000 motorists passed stopped school buses illegally each day of the school year. “Our children are entitled to our doing everything we can to keep them safe. This bill is a key element of those efforts,” said Mannella.
Editor's note: STN regrets an error in a previous version that incorrectly reported that the bus camera legislation (S.3509) was passed by the New York State Senate. It has not gone up for a full senate vote. At this point, the bill has only cleared the Transportation Committee.