Ideally, cameras on school buses would be a preventive tool, rather than punitive. The goal is to keep drivers from passing stopped school buses, not to fine them for this dangerous behavior. Ideally, even just a few tickets written could have a huge impact.
School districts should have the ability to install cameras on buses and keep our children safe, and police should have the ability to write tickets based on the footage.
First, Albany needs to give school districts the green light. Some Suffolk County lawmakers, led by Legis. Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), last week came out in support of bus camera bills introduced in the State Senate and Assembly. The support came after the Longwood school district installed cameras on three buses this month. In just six days, the cameras caught 38 cars passing stopped school buses, although their stop signs were extended and red lights flashing.
That's intolerably dangerous. When a giant yellow vehicle blocks a driver's vision, it's just too difficult to see small children crossing the road, often unaccompanied and not always looking before they cross.
Some county legislators say they'll support the cameras, but only if they're accompanied by a widespread effort to educate drivers. That's fine, although it's also worth noting that the county could do that campaign with or without the cameras.
A first offense of passing a stopped school bus carries a fine of $250 to $400, five points and possible jail time. Bus cameras should not be dismissed just because the school-zone speed camera program in Nassau County was a debacle. School bus camera programs would work if done right and for the right reasons. Implementation should be clearly intended to prevent a dangerous behavior, not to plug a budget hole.