Bill would add ignition devices to school buses to prevent DWI

State and local lawmakers want new legislation requiring all school buses to be equipped with ignition interlock devices to stop school bus drivers from drinking and driving. Videojournalist: Jim Staubitser (Oct. 17, 2012)

In the wake of two recent Long Island incidents, the Nassau district attorney and a local state senator Wednesday proposed legislation aimed at stopping school bus drivers from driving drunk.

District Attorney Kathleen Rice and state Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick) want bus drivers to be required to blow into an ignition interlock device before getting behind the wheel. The breath-test devices prevent the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected.

"This is the first line of defense for defenseless children," Fuschillo said at a news conference at Rice's Mineola office.

The proposed legislation follows two unrelated incidents in which school bus drivers have been charged with drunken driving.

On Oct. 3, the driver of a mini school bus plowed into a Syosset home with five children on board. Neither the children nor the residents of the house were hurt.

A week later, another mini- school bus driver, who told deputies he had just dropped off students, was pulled over on the Long Island Expressway in Ronkonkoma with a shredded tire and a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the state's legal limit of .08 percent, police said.

"Make no mistake: The children on these buses were in grave danger, as were the drivers on the road," Rice said.

Under the legislation, all school buses manufactured after July 1, 2013, to be used in New York State would be required to be equipped with ignition-interlock devices. The proposed law would also give local school boards the authority to adopt a resolution to install ignition interlocks in buses manufactured before next July.

Fuschillo, who chairs the Senate's Transportation Committee, said it costs $750 to $1,500 to install the breath-test device in a bus. He couldn't provide an overall estimate for the cost of his proposal, which would be paid for by the state.

Assemb. David McDonough (R-Merrick), the ranking member of the Assembly's Transportation Committee, said he will co-sponsor the legislation.

Susan Walpole, of Wantagh, co-president of the Mandalay Elementary School PTA, applauded the proposed law.

"As the mother of four children, there's nothing more important to me than their safety," she said. "No one should be able to get behind the wheel and drive drunk with a bus full of children."

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