Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York is doubling down on demands that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSA) release a draft report on an investigation that began over four years ago on the efficacy of stop-arm video cameras to catch motorists that illegally pass school bus stops.
On Tuesday, Schumer addressed a letter to Acting NHTSA Administrator James Owens that complained that the agency has not made good on a promise to share the findings of its review on the need for school bus stop-arm cameras. NHTSA originally said it would release findings by last fall.
Late last month, Schumer first 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.
This week’s letter pointed out to Owens that a voluntary survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services in 2018 of 100,000 school bus drivers—less than 25 percent of all school bus drivers nationwide—uncovered nearly 85,000 vehicles that illegally passed school buses on a single day.
Meanwhile, 50,000 motorists illegally pass school buses each day in Schumer’s home state of New York, according to similar surveys conducted by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation. On a single day this past May, New York law enforcement agencies also issued over 600 tickets to motorists who illegally passed school buses.
“NHTSA’s work to evaluate how cameras can serve as a deterrent to reduce school bus stop-arm violations is a step in the right direction to address this alarming issue,” Schumer wrote. “However, it has been four years since the study was announced without any results, and it has been over ten years since NHTSA revised its safety program guidelines for student transportation, which states use to minimize the danger of death or injury to school children while they are traveling to and from school.”
As noted in a press release issued on Tuesday, Schumer said he also wants federal funds to be allocated for school districts to purchase and install the school bus stop-arm cameras.
“For years, 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. “So my message to the feds is simple: if bus-arm cameras can decrease dangerous and illegal passing on Long Island, well then, the feds should lend a hand.”
As part of his push, Schumer said that he will back the federal legislation “Stop for School Buses Act of 2019,” which the National School Transportation Association publicly supports.
Specifically, the bill mandates the U.S. Department of Transportation to:
- Conduct a review of existing state laws and programs regarding the illegal passing of school buses.
- Establish and implement a nationwide public safety campaign to highlight the importance of illegally passing school buses.
- Review and evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies to enhance school bus safety.
- Review driver education materials in states to determine how the illegal passing of school buses is addressed.
- Research and prepare a report on the connections between the illegal passing of school buses and other safety issues.
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Related: Sen. Schumer Calls for Federal Report on School Bus Stop-Arm Cameras
The National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) also announced its support of Schumer’s call on NHTSA.
“It’s important that NHTSA and other federal agencies focus on educational messaging and new technologies that will increase school bus safety and protect our children,” said NAPT Executive Director Michael Martin in a statement.
New York is among 21 states nationwide that authorize school districts to install school bus stop-arm cameras and enter into agreements with law enforcement agencies and local court systems to use video footage to prosecute motorists who illegally pass school bus stops.