NYSBCA Urges Drivers to Watch out for Students Heading Back to School, Renews Call for Increased School Bus Safety Legislation

Latham, New York – With the start of the new school year underway, The New York School Bus Contractors Association is asking drivers to keep a close eye out for students and to make sure they stop for school buses that have their red lights flashing.  The Association is also renewing its call for an increase in fines and criminal penalties for drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus.

“The start of every school year is always an extremely critical time for student safety, with drivers having to adjust rapidly to the influx of school buses on our roadways,” said Robert Pape, President of the New York School Bus Contractors Association.  “We ask that drivers be fully aware of the children going back to school and come to a complete stop for any school bus that’s flashing its red lights.”

It’s estimated that 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass New York State school buses every day 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 still not enough.   

“When that many tickets are issued on a single day, during an announced traffic safety initiative, it’s obvious current penalties do not go far enough and we need to do more to keep our children safe,” said Pape.  “This is why we continue to strongly support passage of student safety legislation sponsored by New York State Senator Rich Funke”.

“Children being transported by school buses deserve to know they are safe, especially when entering or exiting their bus,” said Senator Funke. “The law is clear: when you see a school bus’s red flashing lights, you must stop, no matter where on the roadway the bus is.  Sadly, far too many people ignore the law and put our children at risk each and every day.  My legislation would crack-down with stiffer penalties and make lawbreakers think twice before they choose to put our kids in danger.”

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. 

The bill was passed by the New York State Senate during the 2015 legislative session, but held up in the New York State Assembly Transportation Committee.  It would need approval again by the Senate and the Assembly during the next legislative session, starting in January 2016, before it could become law.   

“Providing a safe ride for over one million children in New York every day is the single most important thing we do as school bus contractors,” concluded Pape.  “We’re hopeful that the New York State Legislature will help make that ride even safer by passing this critical school bus safety legislation during the next legislative session.”