School districts across New York are now authorized to install video cameras on their buses to capture footage of motorists illegally passing stops where students are loading and unloading. The state became the 20th in the nation to enact such a law.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday signed S.4524 and A.4950B, which both passed the General Assembly in May 2019. The legislation amends several state laws to allow school districts to enter into agreements with law enforcement and municipal governments to develop ticketing campaigns based on video evidence that is taken from school buses and to allow school districts to install the technology.
However, the law does not provide state aid to cover the costs of installing the systems, managing video monitoring, or ensuring the privacy of students and others whose images are captured on video.
A first stop-arm violation carries with it a $250 fine, with each subsequent fine that occurs within 18 months increasing in $25 increments, to a maximum of $300. The new law places liability for illegal passing infractions on the vehicle owner, unless that person can prove the vehicle was stolen at the time of the recorded infraction.
School districts and local government agencies will be required to submit an annual report on the results from the surveillance system demonstration projects to the governor’s office, Senate and Assembly on or before June first of each year. Details would include the number of buses that are equipped with the systems, a description of the routes they monitor, the amount of revenue from violations, the expense of installing and managing the technology, and a description of public education activities to warn motorists of the dangers of illegal passing.
“No parent should ever have to worry that their child’s bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy,” Cuomo said in a statement. “By signing this measure into law, we are providing school districts the tools they need to hold reckless drivers accountable and advancing New York State’s bold initiatives to keep our schoolchildren safe.”
Last year, Cuomo pointed to industry surveys that illustrate the problem of motorists illegally passing school buses. Last month, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation released its latest data from a national survey, which indicates at least 17 million of these moving violations occur across the U.S. in a given school year.
New York had 1,326 school bus drivers—a fraction of the tens of thousands employed statewide—participate in a voluntary, one-day count of illegal passers at their bus stops on May 1 and reported 850 incidents. The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT) estimates that about 50,000 illegal passing incidents occur each day across the state.
“NYAPT has been [at] the forefront for many years advocating for stop-arm cameras in New York State. We are eager to begin collaborating with our law enforcement partners to take advantage of this opportunity to keep our children safe,” said David Christopher, NYAPT executive director, told School Transportation News on Tuesday. “We believe this law will be an effective tool for school bus operators to employ to address the issue of illegal passing of stopped school buses.”
School buses transport about 2.7 million students to and from school each school day. Sixty percent of those students ride privately contracted school buses, according to the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA).
Corey Muirhead, president of NYSBCA, explained in a statement sent to STN on Tuesday, that the state has been working on legislation for years to authorize school districts to install the stop-arm video equipment.
“Today is a big win for school bus safety,” added Muirhead, who is also an executive vice president for Logan Bus Company in New York City. “The governor’s signature is a welcome acknowledgment that when school bus companies, school districts, transportation safety advocates, parents and teachers, all get together, our state government will work for that which is in the public’s best interest.”
Related: Getting Tough on New York’s Illegal School Bus Passers
Related: New York Operation Safe Stop Targets Illegal Bus Passers
Related: Safety Resource, Stop Arm Laws
Related: Oklahoma Becomes Latest State to Allow School Bus Stop-Arm Cameras
Related: Indiana Lawmakers Push for Stop-Arm Cameras After Fatalities
NYSBCA participates alongside NYAPT, the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee and law enforcement agencies to organize Operation Safe Stop, which began 25 years ago. The program increases law enforcement patrols of school bus stops to ticket illegal passers, and to increase public awareness of school buses and the students who ride them.
Ted Nugent, director of transportation at Coxsackie-Athens Central School District and chair of Operation Safe Stop for NYAPT, applauded the passage of the stop-arm video bills in May.
“We know that more than 50,000 motorists pass our stopped school buses every day of the school year. That is unacceptable,” he said in a statement at the time. “This new law will give us an opportunity to provide for greater enforcement and thereby dramatically reduce that number of passing incidents. This is an exciting day for us all.”
The new law goes into effect on Sept. 5.