Students climb on board school buses at Longwood High School,...

Students climb on board school buses at Longwood High School, Thursday. (April 15, 2010) Credit: Newsday / Thomas A. Ferrara

Motorists who were tempted to pass stopped school buses Thursday might have thought twice about it if they noticed the increased police patrols along some routes.

And that was the goal of Thursday's annual Operation Safe Stop Education and Enforcement Day.

In an effort to catch violators, law enforcement officers across Long Island and around the state boarded school buses and in marked and unmarked patrol cars followed selected bus routes with a history of illegal-passing complaints.

To kick off the initiative at Longwood High School in Middle Island, district and school officials were joined by members of the Suffolk County Police Department, State Sen. Brian X. Foley (D-Blue Point), Suffolk County Legislators Kate Browning (WF-Shirley), Vivian Viloria-Fisher (D-East Setauket) and Thomas Muratore (R-Ronkonkoma), and Brookhaven Town board member Connie Kepert.

"We're here today to work together to increase public awareness of this serious danger to our children," said Gale Winsper, transportation coordinator for the Longwood School District and a former bus driver, "and to apprehend as many violators as possible."

The Coram Elementary School first-grade chorus sang a rousing rendition of "The Wheels on the Bus" before officers got to work following about 10 buses after the bell rang at 1:38 p.m. dismissing students from the high school.

"We do this every April, and I think it's very important to bring attention to this," said Sgt. Chris Chorsino of the Suffolk County COPE unit, who was assigned a route for the day. "We're stopping people from endangering children's lives."

Every day an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles pass stopped school buses. There were 69 students injured and one killed by motorists who passed stopped school buses between 2002 and 2004 in New York.

Foley said he is proposing a law - with bipartisan support in the Assembly and Senate - that would make killing a child after passing a stopped school bus third-degree vehicular manslaughter. "This will add another level of deterrence that would grab the attention of careless drivers," he said, "to be more aware of their surroundings." The law would also increase the fine when a motorist passes a stopped school bus to as much as $2,000.

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