New York School Bus Contractors Association supports National School Bus Safety Week, October 19 – 23:
Association calls for increased school bus safety legislation
Latham, New York – The New York School Bus Contractors Association joins with the National Association for Pupil Transportation and the National School Transportation Association in supporting National School Bus Safety Week, an annual event promoting school bus safety.
The New York School Bus Contractors Association is also using the occasion to publicly support increased school bus safety legislation, including stiffer penalties for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus, tougher penalties for school bus drivers who drive under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and expanded drug and alcohol testing for all school bus drivers.
“As champions of school bus safety, the New York School Bus Contractors Association is once again proud to support this year’s annual National School Bus Safety Week. School buses are, without a doubt, the safest way for a child to get to and from school, and overall our school districts and contractors are doing a phenomenal job here in New York,” said Robert Pape, President of the New York School Bus Contractors Association. “However, there’s more we can do to make that ride safer, including the passage of key school bus safety legislation sponsored by New York Senators Rich Funke and John Flanagan.”
An estimated 50,000 motorists illegally pass stopped school buses each school day in New York State, and during the student safety initiative, Operation Safe Stop Day, held last April 16th, a reported one-thousand tickets were issued to drivers who illegally passed stopped school buses. Although drivers ticketed for a first offense currently face up to a $400 fine, a 5 point penalty on their drivers’ license and up to 30-days in jail, it’s clear that these penalties do not go far enough.
Senator Funke’s Bill (S. 2978), sponsored in the State Assembly by Assemblyman Ken Zebrowski (A. 7130), increases the range of fines for passing a school bus for the first time from a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $400 to a minimum of $400 and a maximum of $750; for a second time from a minimum of $600 and a maximum of $750 to a minimum of $950 and a maximum of $1150; and for a third time, within a three year period, from a minimum of $750 and a maximum of $1000 to a minimum of $1150 to a maximum of $1500.
Funke’s Bill also requires that a person who injures someone while passing a school bus be charged with aggravated vehicular assault, and if a person is killed in the incident requires a charge of criminally negligent homicide.
In addition, the New York School Bus Contractors Association strongly supports passage of New York Senator John Flanagan’s bill (S.2147) that would require all school bus drivers to be subjected to random drug and alcohol testing. Currently only 10-percent of school bus drivers employed by a motor carrier are subjected to random drug and alcohol testing and drivers of buses that carry less than 16 passengers are not required to take any type of drug and alcohol testing at all.
Senator Flanagan’s bill also calls for any failed drug and alcohol test to be reported to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles and that any bus driver found operating a school bus while intoxicated would be permanently disqualified from being licensed to operate a school bus. The bill also increases the prohibited time for consumption of alcohol prior to operating a school bus from six to eight hours.
“We’re always happy to support National School Bus Safety Week and its outstanding promotion of school bus safety across the country,” says Pape. “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 that safe ride.”
The National Association for Pupil Transportation’s National School Bus Safety Week is a public education program for parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties, to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety. Designed to promote school bus safety, school districts throughout the country have been observing a School Bus Safety Week - held during the third week in October each year.