School bus safety reminders as students head back to school

Local

COLONIE, N.Y. (NEWS10) — It’s been six months since school buses have been rolling through your neighborhoods taking kids to and from school. On Wednesday, The New York Association for Pupil Transportation (NYAPT), along with a coalition of school transportation industry representatives, school administrators, parent advocates, and law enforcement officers gathered at the South Colonie Central School District Transportation Center to warn the public that buses are back on the road.

“Today’s message is simple. Don’t rush if you see a bus. Our most precious cargo are nearby,” said Christopher Robilotti, Assistant Superintendent for the South Colonie Central School District.

They’re pleading for the attentiveness and cooperation of drivers to make sure children are safe as they get on and off the bus.

“Don’t be distracted, don’t look at your phone, don’t text, because the next thing you know if something horrible happens and you hit one of those children, you have to live with that the rest of your life,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple.

“Please remember those students could be your children, it could be your grandchildren, it could be your neighbor’s child,” said Paul Overbaugh, Director of Pupil Transportation for NYSED.

Too often they said we’ve seen drivers blatantly ignore the law.

“Fifty thousand cars a day, just in New York State, pass a stopped school bus. Think about that. Fifty thousand cars,” said Sheriff Apple.

“Last year we were able to praise some of our school bus drivers who had to literally grab children by their backpack and pull them back into the bus,” said Kyle Belokopitsky, Executive Director for New York PTA.

In New York State, it is illegal to pass a school bus when the flashing red lights are activated and the stop arm signs are extended, regardless of the direction drivers are traveling.

“I know that 30 mph doesn’t seem like a fast speed, but when you’re in our neighborhoods and our city streets and around our schools, 30 mph is too fast,” said Michael Sweeney, Traffic Safety Educator for AAA.

Sweeney also encourages parents to explain to their children that if they’re walking to and from school they should be walking facing traffic and should not be wearing headphones so that they can hear everything going on around them.

They’re also acknowledging that this year is unique in that many people will be driving their own children to school, which comes with its own set of safety reminders.

“For those families that are going to be driving their own children, know that the streets are going to be busy. Please watch out for children that are crossing in front of you near their school buildings. Please take your time in school parking lots to make sure you are watching out for children. The last thing anybody wants is a horrible accident with a child,” said Belokopitsky.

According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, for a driver’s first offense of passing a stopped school bus they are facing a fine of $250-$400 and/or up to 30 days in jail. The second conviction within three years is a fine of $600-$750 and/or up to 180 days in jail. The third conviction (or more) within three years is a fine of $750-$1,000 and/or up to 180 days in jail. Five points will also be added to a driver’s record for each conviction.

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