While the number of motorists who illegally pass school buses fell this month, the New York Association for Pupil Transportation said immediate action is needed by parents, community leaders and media to call for legislation to allow video cameras to document and cite violators.
NYAPT has been tallying one-day, voluntary counts of illegal passing incidents each month since last October, in conjunction with school district members across the state. A March 16 count involving 800 school buses operated by 27 participating districts recorded 562 motorists passing stopped buses. When applied to the more than 50,000 school bus across New York state, NYAPT reported the figure grows to an estimated 25,250 passing incidents, 562 of which could occur on the right, passenger-loading side of the bus.
Despite this being more than a 27-percent decrease from the February high of 34,871 estimated illegal passings, NYAPT President David Adam still saw these numbers as alarming.
“The fact is that the March level of over 25,000 passes heightens our fears for our children. It shows a continued disregard for safety by our fellow motorists and represents over 25,000 opportunities for children to be injured and killed,” said the director of transportation at Marcus Whitman Central School District in Rushville, New York, about 40 miles southeast of Rochester. “I also know that it really bothers our bus drivers who see these passes every day while they are working hard to protect our children. This level of risk is totally unacceptable.”
Two bills that would allow video cameras to be mounted on school buses and the footage to be used to prosecute motorists that fail to stop for the buses with their red lights flashing and stop arm extended are currently under review by the New York State Assembly and State Senate. The NYAPT believes both bills would pass if they come to a vote.
“It’s time for action. While we wish that motorists would show respect for the school bus and for the children, we need to get serious about enforcement,” said Peter Mannella, executive director of NYAPT and a National Association for Pupil Transportation board member. “It should be as easy as, ‘If you pass, you will get a ticket,’ but it isn’t. We need to pass legislation that will help us apprehend and ticket motorists who blow by red lights in ignorance, distraction or indifference. It’s time New Yorkers lined up in support of safety for our children.”
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