Bill calls for stop arm cameras on school buses

BETHLEHEM, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Passing a stopped school bus is illegal, but a local school district said it happens more often than you might think.

A new survey shows the dangerous side of riding the school bus, which has renewed a push to pass a bill that would help police catch drivers who pass them illegally.

When someone illegally passes a stopped school bus, the bus driver’s priority is making sure the students are okay. But a camera attached to the stop arm could catch the lawbreakers in the act.

Video from 2013 shows a logging truck in Canandaigua passing a stopped bus nearly missing a child who was about to cross the street.

“That’s a big bus. You can’t miss it,” Peter Mannella with the New York Assoc. of Pupil Transportation said. “All those lights on the back, a big stop arm coming out the back saying stop. I don’t get it.”

Mannella said a survey they conducted shows it happens approximately 19,000 times a day.

“Impatience, ignorance of the law, people looking at their phones,” he said.

Bethlehem Central Schools is one of the eight local districts that took part in the survey. It logged how many times its buses were passed on October 21.

“For that day, we had ten passers of about 60 participants, and that number was actually kind of low,” Bethlehem Central Schools Dir. Of Transportation Cindy Jurewicz said.

Even though the ten drivers broke the law, they likely won’t face consequences, according to Jurewicz.

“We’re looking at the student and trying to keep them out of harm’s way as the driver is going by,” she said. “So to get a license plate and a description of the driver is impossible.”

That’s why NYAPT is pushing for the passage of a state senate bill in 2016 that would bring cameras to school bus stop arms.

“Allow us to put little tiny cameras and they will capture the license plate of any car that passed the bus when that stop arm is out,” Mannella said.

With the cameras in place, Jurewicz said bus drivers can focus on what really matters.

“First and foremost, where are my kids,” she said. “Stop, look around, and make sure that they’re okay.”

It is unsure how much the cameras would cost local school districts or if they could be covered by state aid.

NYAPT will be conducting another illegal passing survey in November.

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