In honor of School Bus Safety Week, from Oct. 20 to 24, the New York School Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA) is supporting tougher bus safety legislation. Robert Pape, the organization’s president, noted that school buses are by far the safest way for a child to get to and from school — yet additional safeguards are needed.
“Our school districts and contractors are doing a phenomenal job,” said Pape. “That said, there is more we can do to make that ride even safer, including passage of additional school bus safety legislation.”
One of the laws the NYSBCA supports is a bill by New York State Sen. John Bonacic that would increase penalties for motorists who pass stopped school buses in the process of loading and unloading students. Under the current law, first-time offenders may face up to 30 days in jail, five points on their driver’s license and/or a $400 fine. Sen. Bonacic’s proposal would increase these penalties to a 60-day driver’s license suspension for two or more convictions in a 10-year period. The bill is currently sitting in the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee.
The NYSBCA also supports a bill by Sen. John Flanagan that would require all New York school bus drivers take random drug and alcohol tests, with failed tests reported to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles. Any driver operating a school bus under the influence would be permanently disqualified from driving a school bus.
According to NYSBCA, only 10 percent of school bus drivers working for a motor carrier are subjected to random drug and alcohol testing, while drivers of school buses that carry fewer than 16 students are not required to take any of these tests.
“Providing a safe ride to school and back home for over a million children every day in New York is the single most important thing we do as school bus contractors. Passage of this important school bus safety legislation will help us to continue to provide the safest pupil transportation services in the country,” added Pape.