The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) is preparing “the cleanest bill possible” for lawmakers to vote on when they return in January after the bill to install stop-arm cameras on school buses was returned to committee at the close of the last legislative session.
According to Peter Mannella, executive director of NYAPT, the process of starting again has allowed awareness and support for stop-arm camera bill to grow. The bill, S. 3509B sponsored by Sen. Catharine Young, has earned overwhelming backing from a number of organizations that represent students, police and traffic safety. Young attempted another bill two years ago but it failed to leave committee.
The new bill would make it possible to install cameras on the outside of 50,000 school buses around the state to identify and issue tickets to motorists who illegally pass stopped school buses. Cameras would only capture the front and rear license plates of offenders while the bus is at a complete stop. It also would establishe a $250 fine when the video footage verifies a passing incident has taken place, but the bill would not make a violation a part of a driver's record.
The bill does not mandate that school districts around the state must adopt this technology. The bill’s language clearly states that districts concerned about costs can “buy in or not,” said Mannella.
While there have been calls that this bill represents excessive surveillance and violates privacy, Mannella reported that the footage that stop-arm cameras gather is “minimally invasive,” as the cameras only capture the vehicles that put the lives of the 23 million children who ride school buses daily. Mannella added that school bus drivers aren't police, and the lack of tickets being issued for illegally passing stopped buses has grown too extreme.\
“Vehicles are passing school buses at an excessive rate,” said Mannella. “Numbers show illegal passing at least 50,000 times a day. We need to keep our children safe.”
Currently, only law enforcement officers who witness an illegal passing incident can ticket motorists.
Meanwhile, NYAPT's will hold its 23rd annual Operation Safe Stop on April 21, 2016 to educate the public about the dangers of illegally passing stopped school buses. NYAPT will also publicize data from one-day counts of illegal passing incidents by school bus drivers from across the state.