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New survey spurs renewed push for more school bus cameras to deter illegal passing

December 10, 2015
By A.J. Rao ( , Westfield Republican

The number of drivers illegally passing stopped school buses is reportedly rising in the state.

According to a recent survey by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, 1,020 school bus drivers from 28 school districts reported being passed 627 times on Nov. 18.

When this passing rate is applied to the more than 50,000 school buses statewide, the total estimated illegal passing rate is 30,735 for that day alone. Last month, the rate had been slightly over 19,000.

While the survey did not include school districts within Chautauqua County, Joe Gerace, county sheriff, said illegal passings in the local area are not uncommon.

"With the increase in distracted driving and people's (bad) driving behaviors ... I'm not surprised by (such incidents)," he said.

Gerace added that citing motorists can be difficult since many school bus drivers are simply unable to identify the drivers passing them or their license plate numbers in time.

To that end, the NYAPT is seeking legislation that will allow cameras to be mounted on the "stop arms" of school buses.

The camera would capture images of the vehicle and license plate and those images would be used to issue a summons to the registered owner of the vehicle. Currently, a ticket can be issued only by a police officer who witnesses the violation.

"We urge the state Legislature and the governor to support our efforts to allow stop arm cameras to identify motorists who pass our stopped school buses and to allow tickets to be issued as a result of the images taken by those cameras," said Peter Mannella, NYAPT executive director. "It's all for the safety of our children."

Assemblyman Andy Goodell, R-C-I-Jamestown, said while he supports efforts to crack down on drivers who pass buses illegally, he does not support legislation that holds the owner of a vehicle responsible regardless of whether he or she was driving.

"We need to balance the rights of individuals who have not done anything wrong, and so I do not support legislation that holds an owner of a vehicle liable for a traffic offense without giving the owner the defense to establish that they were not operating the vehicle at the time of the offense," Goodell said. "I will be discussing with my colleagues an amendment to this bill that provides an affirmative defense for the owner to establish that somebody else was driving the car. With that amendment, this bill has my full support."

The first-time fine for illegally passing a school bus is $250 to $400, five points on one's license, and/or possibly 30 days in jail.



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