The New York School Bus Contractors Association strongly supports a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to increase fines on motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses.
Gov. Cuomo reaffirmed his commitment to student safety that led him to institute measures in 2016 that “required school districts to designate a point of contact in case of emergency, increase training requirements for faculty and staff, and update safety drills to include a lock down event.”
Out of concern for the 2.3 million students who ride school buses in New York every day, Gov. Cuomo declared in his State of the State address that he intended to impose stiffer penalties on illegal passers. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus in New York, but during the Operation Safe Stop one-day count last April, over 1,000 drivers were ticketed for doing just that.
Current penalties for illegal school bus passing in New York include fines of up to $400, a maximum of 30 days in jail and a possible five points on the offender’s driver’s license.
“It is clear that current penalties are not enough to act as a deterrent,” said NYSBCA President Bree Allen. “We continue to strongly support the passage of complementary bills, sponsored by New York State Senators Rich Funke and John Bonacic, to increase the penalties on drivers who continue to break the law and put our children in danger.”
Senator Funke introduced S.1023, which would increase fines to a maximum of $1,500 depending on the number of offenses. It also adds charges of aggravated vehicular assault for illegal passers who injure someone, and criminally negligent homicide if someone is killed.
S.1064 by Senator Bonacic would impose a 60-day license suspension on someone who illegally passes a school bus two or more times within 10 years.
Both of these bills passed in the State Senate but stalled in the State Assembly.
Allen commended the districts and contractors who “are doing a phenomenal job” on student safety and praised current initiatives and awareness programs like Operation Safe Stop for their positive impact.
“However, it is obvious that more needs to be done to make that ride even safer,” she said. “We will continue to work closely with the Governor and the New York State legislature to pass tougher laws on drivers who put our children in harm’s way.”