New York held its 23rd annual Operation Stop Day in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies to target motorists across the state who illegally pass school buses.
A survey conducted last week by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation indicates that in a single day, 33,128 motorists are disobeying school bus stop arms and flashing red lights at bus stops. Peter Mannella, NYAPT’s executive director, called that “clearly unacceptable.”
“When parents send their children to school, they should not fear for their safety because of another motorist’s careless and reckless behavior,” he added in a statement. “We urge motorists to stop when the bus has its red lights flashing. That means that students are boarding or disembarking school buses. One of those students could be someone you know or a member of your family.”
The New York State School Bus Distributors Association and the governor's Traffic Safety Committee, the latter which says the number of illegal passers each day could be closer to 50,000, join NYAPT and NYSBCA in supporting Operation Safe Stop, which increases police and sheriff's patrols statewide to monitor traffic at school bus stops.
Meanwhile, both NYAPT and the New York School Bus Contractor’s Association are championing legislation to increase school bus stop safety through punitive actions on violators. S2978 introduced by state Sen. Rich Funke would increase the range of fines for illegal passing from minimum of $400 to a maximum of $1,500 depending on the number of prior convictions.
Additionally, motorists who injure a pedestrian while illegally passing would be charged with felony aggravated vehicular assault, and criminally negligent homicide if the violation resulted in a fatality.
“Operation Safe Stop is an important tool to remind drivers that the law is clear: When you see a school bus’s red flashing lights, you must stop, no matter where the bus is. Together with legislation I’ve proposed to crack-down on drivers who pass a stopped bus, this effort will go a long way to prevent avoidable tragedies in our area,” said Funke.
Meanwhile, Sen. John Bonacic introduced S1634 to suspend a motorist’s drivers license for 60 days if they are convicted of illegally passing a school bus two or more times within a 10-year period.
Both bills have been previously introduced and passed the New York State Senate, but failed in the Assembly.
“Providing the safest ride possible to and from school is the single most important thing we do as school bus contractors,” said Mike Martucci, president of NYSBCA. “However, it is clear that there is more to be done, especially in preventing drivers from illegally passing a stopped school bus. We are hopeful that New Yorkers will be extra careful when approaching a stopped school bus and the legislature will do its part and pass tougher laws to crack down on those drivers who put our children in harms way.”