Drivers Urged to Watch for Students Walking or Biking, Follow Posted Speed Limits and Wait for Stopped School Buses.
Albany, NY - Sept. 4, 2018 - Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York State Police are stepping up patrols to crack down on dangerous drivers as students return to school. The Governor urged motorists to watch for students as they walk or bike to school, follow posted speed limits, and stop and wait whenever a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing and its "stop" sign extended. This is the latest step in a series of safety measures the Governor has recently taken to get the school year off to a safe start.
"I urge every driver to take extra precautions now that school is back in session and students are returning to class," Governor Cuomo said. "The safety of New York's children is our top priority, and these precautions will keep students safe from harm, prevent traffic violations and hold reckless motorists accountable."
In addition to stepping up enforcement efforts, the State Police will also be partnering with AAA for their "School's Open - Drive Carefully" campaign. State Police will be displaying AAA's "School's Open" bumper stickers on all marked patrol cars. The purpose of the initiative is to raise driver awareness about pedestrian safety and to remind motorists to slow down and stop for school buses when their red lights are flashing.
Last month, Governor Cuomo signed an executive order to protect more than one million New York City school children from speeding vehicles. The Governor's action paved the way for the City to reinstate its school zone speed camera program after Senate Republicans failed to act to extend the speed camera law before the end of the legislative session. Studies have shown that after installing the cameras in 2014, 10 fewer children have been killed by motor vehicles each year - from 18 to 8.
Earlier in August, Governor Cuomo signed a bill strengthening the state's requirements for random drug and alcohol testing for all school bus drivers. The law also prohibits bus drivers from drinking alcohol at least eight hours prior to their shift, an increase from the previous six-hour limit.
Additionally, the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee along with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation and State Police joined the Governor in urging caution as the school year begins. In April, more than 850 drivers statewide were ticketed for illegally passing stopped school buses during "Operation Safe Stop," a one-day enforcement effort. State Police and local law enforcement also issued 3,044 tickets for other traffic violations and made 89 arrests for offenses including drunk driving and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.
Here is a regional breakdown of tickets issued for Passing Stopped School Bus:
Statewide (Issued by State Police in various regions): 20
Capital Region: 5
Finger Lakes: 43
Long Island: 76
New York City: 691
Western New York: 7
The GTSC estimates that 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses every day across the State. Drivers convicted of passing a stopped school bus face a fine of $250 to $400 and five points on their license for a first violation. For three violations in three years, drivers face a maximum fine of $1,000, a revoked driver license for a minimum of six months and could face jail time.
While the one-day enforcement effort is meant to raise awareness of the importance of not passing a stopped school bus, police ticket motorists every school day for this offense. Drivers must stop whether they are approaching the school bus from the front or the rear. Furthermore, motorists must always stop for flashing red lights, even on divided and multilane highways and on school grounds.
Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Chair Terri Egan said, "The number of tickets issued in just one day underscores the importance of continued enforcement and education about the serious consequences that passing a stopped school bus can have. Children should be able to get on or off the school bus without a distracted or hurried driver putting their lives at risk. We owe it to students and their parents to watch for those flashing lights and stop whenever we see them. Drivers should also look out for children walking or riding bicycles to school."
Paul A. Karas, Acting Commissioner of New York State Department of Transportation said, "It's back to school time and all across New York State families are getting ready for the beginning of the school year. One of the most important duties we have at the Department of Transportation is to ensure that school buses are safe for the children who depend on them every day. Safety is our number one priority, and I assure parents and caregivers that our inspections are always done with the utmost care and with child safety at the forefront."
State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, "State Police will be vigilant in keeping our roadways safe as our children head back to school. Drivers can do their part by obeying the posted speed limits in school zones, stopping when they see the flashing red lights of a school bus, and being mindful of children who are walking to school. I encourage all motorists to make safety a top priority by remaining alert and focused when they are traveling through neighborhoods and school zones during the school year and beyond."
Parents are urged to discuss school safety with their children, including teaching them to always look both ways when crossing the street and to look to the right when they step off a bus. Children should be taught if they drop something while getting on or off the bus they should never pick it up, and instead alert the driver and follow the driver's instructions to make sure the driver sees them.
Parents should also make sure their children's clothing and backpacks do not present a potential hazard. Jacket and sweatshirt drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing may get caught on the bus handrail or door. If you meet your child at the bus stop after school, wait on the side where the child will be dropped off, not across the street. Children can sometimes dash across the street to see their parents and forget the safety rule of looking both ways before crossing the street.
The NYSDOT inspects approximately 50,000 school vehicles as part of its inspection program. The school districts, private schools as well as many for-hire school vehicle contractors operate these school vehicles. More than 400 elements are examined during every inspection, which are done on a semiannual basis, including brakes, suspension, steering, exhaust, lights, tires, engine, seats, seatbelts, and the driver's compartment.
If a bus is labeled out-of-service because of a major defect, it cannot carry passengers until the defect is corrected and the bus passes re-inspection. In addition, required maintenance records, preventive maintenance program, and driver inspection reports are also checked.
For more information about school bus safety, visit the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee website.