Pass School Bus Safety Law, With Revisions

A school bus in Fredonia was recently stopped with its red lights on waiting for day care students to board the bus. Three times, the bus driver had to honk at the children to stop because a van was passing the stopped bus despite flashing red lights telling the driver to stop.

One would think the flashing red lights on a school bus would be pretty self-explanatory, but that apparently isn’t the case. A recent New York Association for Pupil Transportation survey of 35 school districts found 878 bus drivers reported being passed 727 times in one day in mid-January, including 88 times on the passenger side of the bus.

Several pieces of legislation are pending in the state Legislature that could create penalties for those who refuse to stop for school buses with their red lights flashing. The School Bus Camera Safety Act that would allow cameras to be mounted on the “stop arms” of school buses. The cameras would capture images of a passing vehicle and its license plate so that police can issue a court summons to the registered owner of the vehicle. Such legislation has been kicking around the state Legislature for years but never seems to make it into law.

Perhaps an amendment supported by state Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, could help.

The legislation, as written, holds the owner of a vehicle liable even if the owner wasn’t driving the vehicle when the vehicle is seen passing a school bus. Goodell is right that the law, as written, violates basic principles of due process and fairness. Legislators should make sure the School Bus Camera Safety Act is fair to all and then pass the bill during this legislative session.