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OpinionEditorial

School bus cameras could deter bad drivers and save lives

Anoop Keswani, a driver in the East Meadow

Anoop Keswani, a driver in the East Meadow School District, says about once a week a driver illegally passes his stopped school bus. Credit: Howard Simmons

The penalty for passing a stopped school bus — a fine of $250 to $400, five points on your driver’s license and a possible 30 days in jail — is steep, and it should be. But citations for the crime are rare, even though bus drivers say motorists commonly blow by them as children get on or off and stop signs and hazard lights are activated.

The New York Association for Pupil Transportation, which represents school bus managers, estimates 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses in the state each day, but Suffolk County police issued only 118 tickets for the act last year.

Police say it’s difficult to catch violators because copsy have to see the risky behavior to write a ticket while their visible presence often prevents such dangerous driving.

But now a local school district is poised to test a program to catch such violators with cameras rather than cops, and the State Legislature soon could allow tickets to be issued via such programs.

East Meadow school officials are preparing to install cameras on the stop-sign arms of a dozen of its 60 school buses for 30 days to identify motorists who drive around stopped buses. During the pilot program, Albany lawmakers are considering a change. The Assembly recently passed legislation to allow information from those cameras to be passed on to local police, who could issue $250 tickets to the car owners if the evidence is clear. The Senate should take action as well.

Passing stopped school buses is truly dangerous, as the serious injuries suffered by a 10-year-old boy hit by a driver in Kings Park in 2017 showed. And passing stopped school buses is part of a broader, ferociously aggressive driving pattern that needs to stop.

School bus cameras already are used to issue tickets in at least 16 states, and they’re well worth trying here.

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