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State To Let Schools Put Cameras On Bus Stop Arms

ALBANY — Schools in New York state can now install cameras on the stop arms of school buses to catch motorists who put students at risk under legislation signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Drivers caught on camera passing a stopped bus would face $250 tickets, with higher fines for repeat violators. The cameras, mounted on the stop sign that extends outward whenever a bus is stopped, will automatically record each vehicle that passes it illegally.

“No parent should ever have to worry that their child’s bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy,” Cuomo, a Democrat, said Tuesday in a statement announcing his signature.

Local officials from around the state had urged lawmakers to tweak the law to allow for the cameras. Under the law, districts may begin using the cameras in 30 days, just as fall classes get underway.

It will be up to local education officials to decide whether to equip buses with cameras. Revenue from fines will be split between local school districts and municipalities.

State transportation officials estimate that motorists illegally pass stopped school buses tens of thousands of times each day in New York. During a one-day crackdown on the problem in May, police around the state issued 626 tickets for illegally passing a school bus, in addition to more than 1,600 tickets for other moving violations.

School buses transport 2.3 million children in New York state each school day, according to state figures.

During floor debate on the legislation in May, Assemblyman Andrew Goodell, R-Jamestown, questioned Assemblyman William Magnarelli, D-Syracuse, had questions about using the cameras to identify the driver of a vehicle that passes a school bus rather than just capturing the license plate. Goodell also questioned the placement of signs that tell drivers school buses have stop-arm cameras.

The legislation stipulates signs are to be located at each roadway entrance of the jurisdictional boundaries of the county, city, town or village giving the notice. Goodell asked if that meant signs would have to be placed on all of the roads going into and out of each of the towns, villages and cities that house Chautauqua County’s 17 school districts. Magnarelli replied that the signs could be countywide, but allows towns, villages and cities to put up the signs, with the cost possibly paid out of fines.

Goodell’s final line of questioning was about the placement of signs the law requires that tell drivers school buses in the state will have stop-arm cameras.

“I am concerned about the language, as I mentioned, because I think we’d get a much higher level of compliance if we didn’t tell people where they had to be careful and let everyone think that they ought to be careful everywhere,” Goodell said. “And in addition to saving literally millions of dollars in signage — because we’re talking about hundreds and hundreds of signs per municipality if it’s on a town-by-town basis — in addition to saving the money, we get higher compliance. And I also would encourage, if we have an opportunity to amend this if it comes back from the governor, that we look at allowing the image to show the actual driver, because the person we want to stop from violating this is the actual driver, not the owner of the car who may not be in the car, but the actual driver. And third, as I mentioned, this camera and the images ought to be available for all safety purposes, including reviewing the actions of the driver. Both to — to help improve the driver’s actions, as well as defend the driver in the event that the municipality unfortunately is sued, as sometimes is the case. So, while I will be supporting this bill today because of its intent, I urge my sponsor and my colleague to consider making some of the amendments to make it more cost-effective and more effective all together.”

— John Whittaker contributed to this report.

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