As families prepare for school to open this fall, State Senator Hugh T. Farley (R,C- Schenectady) reminds both motorists and children of the importance of school bus safety.
"Starting school can be an exciting time of year for many youngsters but it can also be a dangerous time," Senator Farley said.
"Our bus drivers are doing a wonderful job of transporting children safely to and from school," Senator Farley said, "but accidents do happen. Especially when other motorists do not pay attention to the law and fail to stop for a school bus when it is receiving or discharging passengers."
According to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles Driver’s Manual, when a motorist approaches a stopped school bus flashing its red lights, the driver must stop at least 20 feet away from the school bus. Once stopped, motorists must not proceed again until the red lights stop flashing.
"Let me make this perfectly clear," said Senator Farley. "This law concerns all roads in New York State. You must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway. After stopping, please watch for children. According to the State DMV, most school bus-related deaths and injuries occur when children are crossing the street, not in auto accidents involving school buses."
Drivers who fail to stop when a school bus has its red lights on face costly penalties and can even land in jail. A first conviction carries a fine of between $250 and $400, a jail sentence of up to 30 days, or both. A second conviction within three years carried an increased fine of between $600 and $750, a jail sentence of up to 180 days, or both. A third conviction within three years carries penalties that include a fine of between $750 and $1,000, a jail sentence of up to 180 days, or both.
"Drivers should also remember that a conviction for passing a stopped school bus is a moving traffic violation that adds points to your license, can increase your insurance costs and may even jeopardize your driving privileges," Senator Farley said.
To help children be safe, Senator Farley suggested the following tips for getting on and off the bus:
* When waiting for the bus, stay away from traffic. Do not stray onto streets.
* Line up away from the road as the school bus approaches. Wait until the bus stops and the door opens before stepping onto the roadway.
* If you have to cross the street in front of the bus, make sure that the bus driver can see you. Wait for a signal from the driver before crossing. When crossing, keep an eye out for possible traffic.
"Motorists should remember that they are sharing the road, not owning it," the Senator said.
For more information, Senator Farley has a free brochure on school bus safety and can be obtained by calling 455-2181 (Albany), 843-2188 (Amsterdam), 762-3733 (Johnstown), or toll-free at (800) 224-5201.