Areas on a school bus where a camera may be located...

Areas on a school bus where a camera may be located to catch motorists who fail to stop. Credit: Howard Simmons

Nassau County will start reaching out to school systems to gauge whether the districts want to attach cameras to school bus stop arms in order to catch and ticket drivers who illegally pass stopped buses.

On Monday the County Legislature passed a bill authorizing the camera monitoring program. Now, school boards must also decide whether to opt in to the enforcement and enter into contracts with Nassau, which will hire a vendor to install the equipment on the buses.

The owner of the ticketed vehicle would be liable for the penalties, which start at $250 for a first violation, according to the county's new law.

Any costs to the school districts will be covered by the county, according to the legislation. There is no cost to school districts, county spokeswoman Christine Geed said, and Nassau officials intend for the vendor to absorbs all costs.

Nassau will seek bids for a company to furnish, install, and maintain the bus camera equipment, and officials are hoping the vendor would accept as compensation a cut of the revenue collected by the county, Geed said.

The county wil issue a request for proposals agreement based, in part, on how many districts express interest in adding the cameras.

Asked about the policy, Nicholas Stirling, president of the Nassau County Council of School Superintendents, said in a statement: "School safety and protecting the lives of children are always our highest priorities. We are always looking for additional ways to keep our students safe. It is important that drivers obey the law and accept responsibility for their actions. We look forward to working with the County moving forward." 

Geed also said in a statement, "The County Executive’s main priority is to ensure the health and safety of our residents, especially young people.  With this new legislation we will give our schools the option to install these new bus cameras which can help us catch reckless drivers and penalize those who illegally pass a bus stopped to drop off and pick up children. “

In August, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation authorizing the stop-arm cameras. State officials said more than 850 people violated the stopped school bus law on a single day in April 2018, when police had targeted offenders of that law. The state has used this data to project that buses are passed illegally more than 150,000 times in a 180-day school year.

Last year, Nassau County police issued 79 tickets to vehicles that passed or went around a school bus, Geed said. The number was as high as 146 in 2013 and 177 in 2010. 

The Suffolk County Legislature will review a similar proposal at its Oct. 2 meeting, a Suffolk county spokesman said.

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