Last year, a study by the New York State Association for School Pupil Transportation concluded that approximately 50,000 drivers throughout the state illegally pass a stopped school bus each school day. It’s a frightening problem in New York City, where 10,000 school buses ferry 150,000 kids each day and motorists can be dangerously impatient.
Passing stopped school buses is a significant problem, and exterior cameras that can catch violators are needed to address it.
New York already has had steep penalties for passing stopped school buses: a fine of $250 to $400, five points on a driver’s license and a possible 30 days in jail. However, in the past, if no police officer witnessed the infraction, no ticket could be written. In other words, few violators are caught.
So it was a good move when the State Legislature passed and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed a bill allowing tickets to be issued based on evidence from such cameras this year, and it is good news that a local law authorizing the cameras was introduced in City Council last week. The owner of any car ticketed would be held liable, since it is difficult to prove who is driving a car via such cameras. And the program would likely pay for itself via fines collected.
Approximately 100 pedestrians younger than 18 were killed in crashes related to school buses in the United States between 2007 and 2016. Last year, during just one week in November, five children were killed in the United States in accidents at bus stops when drivers passed stopped buses.
Where these cameras have been used — for example, on Long Island and in Southern states — they’ve helped, particularly when operated in combination with education programs. And drivers learn. In Cobb County, Georgia, which operates about 1,000 buses, less than 2 percent of those ticketed are caught repeating the offense, according to officials, and they say violations have decreased by half.
Cameras on school buses can punish dangerous driving — and prevent it. New York City needs to hop on board.