Sen. Charles E. Schumer is urging federal action on the guidelines and use of federal funding for the installation of school bus stop-arm cameras to curb illegal passing motorists.
Sen. Schumer noted in a press release on Oct. 30 that more than 50,000 vehicles across New York illegally pass school buses on an average school day. He added that in May, the state participated in a one-day law enforcement initiative, “Operation Safe Stop Education and Enforcement Day,” which resulted in more than 600 tickets being issued to motorists who passed a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop-arm extended.
Schumer is urging the release of a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) report on school bus stop-arm cameras. New York state recently passed legislation authorizing the installation of school bus surveillance systems, but Schumer questions if the law needs to be implemented on a national level.
Schumer urged NHTSA to expedite the release of its study and, if necessary, implement new safety guidelines for cameras on school bus stop signs and establish federal funding opportunities for installation.
“The federal government has slow-walked the release of critical data and a report on the effectiveness of installing cameras on school bus stop signs as a measure of enforcing traffic laws and deterring perpetrators, essentially kneecapping safety improvement efforts,” he said.
Schumer added, “So my message to the feds is simple. It’s time to slow down cars and speed up the release of this potentially life-saving report, and if deemed necessary, change safety standards to require the installation of these cameras on all new school buses.”
NHTSA reportedly began working on an investigation of federal requirements in 2015. The report was set to be released in early 2018, but Schumer he and Congress have yet to see related data or recommendations.
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Schumer said that potential rulemaking, prompted by the release of a NHTSA federal report, could allow federal funding for the installation of the surveillance cameras. This would help alleviate the financial pressure, and school districts supposedly wouldn’t be forced to pay an “arm and a leg for them.”
He also claimed that NHTSA could update its Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 17 on Pupil Transportation Safety to include school bus cameras, which would open the door for them to be federally funded.
New York was the most recent state to pass a bill allowing the installation of stop-arm cameras. Currently, 20 other states have also passed state laws or codes that allow school districts to install surveillance cameras on school buses, on or near the stop-arm equipment.
Schumer noted that too many drivers are violating the law, and driving past school buses when they have the stop-arm extended and red lights flashing. He highlighted “how 75 percent of all school bus fatalities are attributed to oncoming vehicles.”
Previously, School Transportation News collected data from various local news stations and reported that 70 children were injured last school year in a crossing-related incident and 17 were killed.
Schumer commented that if drivers know they are being watched, they would likely break fewer traffic laws, which includes stopping when a school bus is stopped.
“The time has come to see the results of NHTSA’s study of school bus cameras and build on these findings with concrete and meaningful action,” Schumer concluded.