The New York State Senate unanimously passed sweeping legislation (S3558, S4385, and S2960) last week taking measures to ensure children’s safety while traveling to and from school by increasing penalties and education around school bus safety.
“The recent evidence of excessive recklessness around school buses with red lights flashing and children disembarking has been truly sobering. Immediate action is called for and I hope that people will take notice, wake up and realize that no appointment, no schedule or meeting is worth risking a child’s life,” said Senator Felder.
The legislation’s three bills address the issue from numerous angles. The first bill seeks to stem the immediate danger and deter law breakers who pose an unconscionable threat to the lives of over 2 million NYS schoolchildren daily, by immediately increasing penalties for overtaking and passing a school bus. A first conviction will carry a fine between $350 and $500.
A second bill, addresses our responsibility to teach new drivers from the very beginning about the dangers and illegality of passing a stopped school bus by amending the driver’s education curriculum and ensuring at least one question on school bus safety is part of the written pre-licensing exam.
“We must do our best to empower drivers to make safer decisions on the road. Early awareness can help drivers develop a habit of safe driving from the start. We want to sensitize drivers to the fact that their decisions on the road can mean the difference between life and death. We also want everyone to be aware - you will incur costly disciplinary fines if you are not careful with these laws,” explained Senator Felder.
The last bill directs surcharges collected from these fines be directed to a school bus safety education fund that will support school bus safety research to improve, develop and implement proposals to reduce violations. An estimated 50,000 illegal school bus passings occur across New York State each school day. The fund will also promote awareness through public service announcements and other safety initiatives.
“Drivers who pass school buses put children’s lives at risk and the NYS Senate is serious about stopping and punishing this crime in a manner that reflects its severity. Children are our most precious resource and their safety is always our priority,” said Senator Felder.