ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New legislation is being reviewed by the Albany County Legislature that would fine drivers who fail to stop for school buses that deploy a stop-arm while picking up or dropping off students.
The local law, which is set to be discussed in committee this week, would involve Albany County Executive Dan McCoy entering into agreements with school districts to install, use, and maintain school bus photo violation monitoring systems.
“This law will add another layer of protection for children when the school bus is stopped for loading and unloading with its red lights flashing and stop-arms extended. The ability to capture violators with camera systems and levy significant fines upon them will hopefully finally get drivers to take seriously the need to stop when buses are loading and unloading students regardless of the inconvenience it may cause the driver,” said Albany County Legislator Matthew Miller, who co-sponsored the bill, adding this is an issue that is personal to him. “As a teacher for nearly 30 years, the health and safety of school children has always been a paramount concern for me. As a County Legislator, the opportunity now exists to act upon those concerns and to protect our children from aggressive, impatient or distracted drivers through Local Law C.”
Before state legislation was put in place in 2019 that allowed monitoring systems to fine drivers who ignored stopped school buses, drivers had to be caught in the act by police in order for a ticket to be written. Since then, jurisdictions across the country have put in place similar legislation due to a growing number of concerns regarding the number of violations that have been taking place.
The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles reports the following statistics related to these incidents:
- An estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass New York State school buses every day
- During Operation Safe Stop in 2018, 2,191 police officers from 43 law enforcement agencies participated in the enforcement campaign
- Combined efforts produced 838 tickets for passing stopped school buses
- 2,814 tickets were issued for other moving violations
Officials say if passed, Local Law C would use monitoring systems that could either be stationary, installed on County roads, or mobile, installed on buses operated by a school district that would be based on an agreement with the district itself.
“This legislation is a win-win for everyone involved, specifically the students who are getting on or off a school bus and who are put at risk every time a driver speeds past a school bus. Through this program we are also easing the financial burden on school districts that already have strapped budgets,” stated Lynne Lekakis, Chairwoman of the Mass Transit Committee.
The local law would also need to take into account people’s privacy including that of drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists who could be caught on camera by a school bus photo violation monitoring system which would require the County to adopt measures that protect a person’s identity.
According to officials, if caught violating the Vehicle and Traffic Law, a $250 fine could be imposed for a first offense, $275 for a second violation within 18 months of the first violation, and $300 for a third or subsequent violation. An additional penalty of $25 would be given for failure to respond to a notice of liability sent to the owner within the given time period.