NYSBCA Calls on Drivers to Stop When They See Red Lights Flashing on a School Bus

Latham, N.Y. – The New York School Bus Contractors Association hosted an Operation Safe Stop event today with local and state officials in Port Jervis, NY, to draw awareness to the importance of stopping when drivers see a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing.  Operation Safe Stop Day, an initiative of the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, is a statewide education and enforcement campaign targeting drivers who put children in harms way by illegally passing stopped school buses. 

According to the New York State Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee, an estimated 50,000 drivers in New York illegally pass stopped school buses every day school is in session. 

“Our school bus drivers witness drivers putting children in harms way every day by illegally passing a stopped school bus,” said Mike Martucci, President of the New York School Bus Contractors Association.  “Drivers need to know that they must stop when they see the flashing red lights on a school bus.  We are proud to join our school district and law enforcement partners to bring awareness to the dangers of illegally passing a stopped school bus – our number one priority is to protect the children riding our school buses.”

The Operation Safe Stop Day event was held at the Anna S. Kuhl Elementary School in Port Jervis, NY, with Port Jervis Superintendent of Schools Thomas Bongiovi; Port Jervis Police Chief William Worden; Town of Deerpark Police Chief Richard Sztyndor; Orange County Sheriff Carl DuBois; Orange County District Attorney David Hoovler; Orange County Clerk Annie Rabbitt; New York State Senator John Bonacic’s press secretary Conor Gillis; President of the New York State Bus Distributors Association Rick Reichenbach and New York Association of Pupil Transportation local chapter members.  

The New York School Bus Contractors Association is also using the occasion to again call for the passage of legislation sponsored by New York State Senators John Bonacic (District 42) and Rich Funke (District 55) to increase the penalties on drivers convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus.

“The New York Contractors Association strongly supports the passage of two complementary bills, sponsored by State Senator John Bonacic and State Senator Rich Funke, to increase penalties on those drivers who continue to break the law and put our students in danger.”

Although drivers ticketed for a first offense face up to 30-days in jail, as much as a $400 fine, and a 5-point penalty on their drivers’ license, it is clear the current penalties do not go far enough to act as a deterrent.  Senator John Bonacic’s legislation (S.1634) calls for the additional penalty of a 60-day suspension of a person’s drivers’ license when that person is convicted of illegally passing a stopped school bus two or more times within a 10-year period.  Senator Bonacic’s bill has been approved unanimously by the New York State Senate in the past but has not moved in the Assembly in recent years.

“I’m proud to work with the New York School Bus Contractors Association, and my colleagues in government and law enforcement to promote school bus safety education and enforcement,” said Senator Bonacic.  “I’m proud to have sponsored legislation in the past that would increase penalties for those passing a stopped school bus, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the legislature to ensure our drivers, as well as our students, are safe when they are going to and from school.”

Senator Funke’s legislation (S.2978) would increase the range of fines for illegally passing a stopped school bus from a minimum of $400 to a maximum of $1500, depending on the number of convictions.  The legislation 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, the legislation requires a charge of criminally negligent homicide.  Senator Funke’s bill has also been approved by the New York State Senate in the past but failed to move in the Assembly. 

“School bus drivers work hard every day to protect the students they transport and it’s on all of us to ensure that our kids are every bit as safe when entering or exiting a bus,” said Senator Rich Funke (R-C-I, Fairport). “Operation Safe Stop is an important tool to remind drivers that the law is clear: when you see a school bus’s red flashing lights, you must stop, no matter where the bus is. Together with legislation I’ve proposed to crack-down on drivers who pass a stopped bus, this effort will go a long way to prevent avoidable tragedies in our area.”

“Ensuring the safety of the over 2 million children who ride a yellow school bus to and from school each day is the number one priority of the New York State Bus Distributors Association, said Association President, Rick Reichenbach.   “Drivers need to know that when the red lights are flashing on a school bus, they must stop, and that illegally passing a school bus could threaten the safety of a child.  We are proud to stand with the New York School Bus Contractors Association and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee to support Operation Safe Stop.”

“Providing the safest ride possible to and from school is the single most important thing we do as school bus contractors,” concluded Martucci.  “However, it is clear that there is more to be done, especially in preventing drivers from illegally passing a stopped school bus.  We are hopeful that New Yorkers will be extra careful when approaching a stopped school bus and the legislature will do its part and pass tougher laws to crack down on those drivers who put our children in harms way.”

Photos and/or Video from today’s event available by request

About the New York School Bus Contractors Association: The association is an organization representing over one hundred school transportation companies, also known as school bus contractors, with the primary mission of promoting safe, reliable and cost-effective student transportation services in New York State.