New York, NY - Looking to protect children on their way to and from school, the New York City Council passed a law by Council Member Ben Kallos that will make New York City the largest school district in the nation to install stop-arm cameras on its fleet of 10,000 school buses. These stop-arm cameras will catch reckless drivers who endanger students by illegally passing school buses during drop off and pickup.
“Every child must be safe as they get on and off the school bus. It could be anyone’s child at risk from drivers speeding by and worse yet drivers who have actually driven up on sidewalks," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "We are all in a rush to get where we are going, but there is no excuse to put our children at risk. Stop-arm cameras will catch reckless drivers and automatically issue tickets to keep our children safe."
Parents in New York City have been shocked by a series of high profile instances of drivers around the City caught on video going around stopped school buses. The law will allow the city to install cameras on all of the city's nearly 10,000 school buses with footage sent for review by the police who will issue violations to the owner of the vehicle. The law is set to sunset in 3 years, though when it works, it will likely be extended.
According to the NYS Association of School Pupil Transportation, in a study cited by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee as part of Operation Safe Stop, last year an estimated 50,000 drivers throughout New York State illegally passed a stopped school bus every day. Additionally, a study by the National Safety Council showed that 70 percent of deaths related to school buses occur outside of the bus, and it's been found that more school-age pedestrians have been killed during the hour before and after school than any other time of day.
During a one-month (26 school day) pilot by the East Meadow School District in nearby Nassau County (conducted by BusPatrol and the Logan Bus Company), 10 school buses captured 615 violations for an average of about 2.3 violations per bus per day (615 violations on 10 buses over 26 school days). Using that violation rate in modeling the New York City school bus fleet, that has roughly 10,000 buses, we can expect to see an estimated 23,000 violations per day or 4.2 million violations per school year in the city.
While it’s already illegal in New York to pass a stopped school bus, it previously was required that a police officer had to witness the violation to issue a ticket. But the state earlier this year enacted a law that allows localities and school districts to install cameras on school bus arms that capture the license plates of cars that pass stopped buses.
The photos are sent to law enforcement, who determine whether a violation occurred. Tickets are then sent to the vehicle owner. Though the vehicle owners are fined, there are no moving violations or points issued. In other states that allow such technology, repeat offenders are virtually non-existent.
Kallos' bill would require the Department of Education and the Office of Pupil Transport to install stop-arm cameras on all nearly 10,000 school buses.
Under the legislation, the NYPD’s Parking Violation Bureau would enforce fines for first-time offenders ranging from $250 to $275 and $300 for second and third offenders. The bill also requires that some of the funds recouped from the fines be given to the New York City Department of Education.
Once passed the legislation will take effect immediately, requiring the City to issue a Request for Proposal for vendors who could install the cameras most efficiently and cost-effectively.