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       2      ------------------------------------------------------

       3                         PUBLIC HEARING:

       5                       SCHOOL BUS DRIVERS

       6      ------------------------------------------------------


       8                       Farmingdale State College
                               Campus Center Ballroom
       9                       2350 Broadhollow Road
                               Farmingdale, New York  11735
                               May 2, 2013
      11                       10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.


                 Senator Charles J. Fuschillo, Jr.
      15         Chair



      18         Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (RM)

      19         Senator Carl L. Marcellino

      20         Senator Lee M. Zeldin



      23         Assemblyman David G. McDonough

      24         Assemblyman Michael A. Montesano



              SPEAKERS:                               PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Melissa L. Escudero                       10
       3      Mother/Advocate
              Resident of Massapequa, New York
              Brendan Ahern                             16      28
       5      Assistant District Attorney,
                   Vehicular Crimes Bureau
       6      Nassau County District Attorney's Office

       7      Peter F. Mannella                         43      56
              Executive Director
       8      Richard Gallagher
              Association President, from
       9           Bay Shore School District
              NY Association for Pupil Transportation
              Susan Bergtraum                           83      95
      11      Vice President, and Area 11 Director
              NYS School Boards Association
              Juanita Samuels                           96      99
      13      Vice President
              Transport Union Workers, Local 252
              John J. Corrado                          102     123
      15      President
              Suffolk Transportation Service, Inc.
              Paul Mori                                102     123
      17      Board Member
              NYS School Bus Contractors Association
              David Kelly                              128     132
      19      Executive Director
              Coalition of Ignition Interlock
      20           Manufacturers

      21      F. Craig Lotz                            128     132
              Chief Executive Officer
      22      Sens-O-Lock of America, Inc.





              SPEAKERS (Continued):                   PAGE  QUESTIONS
              Christopher M. Mistron                   147
       3      Traffic Safety/STOP-DWI Coordinator
              Nassau County Traffic Safety
              Al Belbol, Jr.                           145
       5      Co-President
              Levy-Lakeside Elementary School PTA

       7                            ---oOo---




















       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Ladies and gentlemen,

       2      thank you very much for being here today.

       3             My name is Senator Charles Fuschillo, and I

       4      am the Chairman of the New York State Transportation

       5      Committee.

       6             To my far left is Assemblyman Dave McDonough,

       7      Assemblyman Mike Montesano;

       8             And to my right is Senator Carl Marcellino,

       9      and Senator Lee Zeldin.

      10             And I would like to thank Farmingdale State

      11      College, and its president, Dr. Hubert Keen, for

      12      allowing us to hold this hearing in this beautiful

      13      new campus center.

      14             When a parent puts their child on a school

      15      bus, they're placing their child's life and safety

      16      in the hands of the driver.

      17             The vast majority of school bus drivers take

      18      that responsibility very seriously.

      19             However, we have seen some drivers ignore

      20      their responsibility, abuse parents' trust, and

      21      endanger children's safety, by driving drunk.

      22             On Long Island alone, there have been at

      23      least four incidents since last October, where

      24      bus drivers got behind the wheel, intoxicated.

      25             One bus driver crashed into a Syosset home,


       1      with five young children on board.

       2             Another drove his bus on the LIE with a BAC

       3      nearly ten times the legal commercial limit, and a

       4      half empty bottle of vodka, after dropping off a

       5      busload of middle-school students.

       6             A third crashed his bus, with four children

       7      on board, into a parked car because he was allegedly

       8      intoxicated.

       9             A fourth was arrested, while ability was

      10      impaired, after backing his bus filled with

      11      29 middle school students into a tree.

      12             Incidents like this are among parents' worst

      13      fear.  While they do not happen regularly, they have

      14      happened before, and they can happen again.

      15             In a few minutes, we'll be hearing testimony

      16      from Melissa Escudero.  Her son, Christian, was a

      17      passenger on the school bus which crashed into a

      18      Syosset home.

      19             Christian is also in the audience to watch

      20      today's hearing, and we thank both of them, and his

      21      grandmother, for being here today.

      22             The questions we will discuss today is,

      23      "How do we stop these incidents from occurring?"

      24      because children -- because parents have every right

      25      to expect, and demand, that their children's bus


       1      driver is sober whenever they get behind the wheel.

       2             Ignition interlocks are one option that

       3      should be explored.  A number of states, including

       4      New York, use these devices to help prevent

       5      convicted DWI offenders from driving drunk again.

       6             Ignition interlocks have a proven track

       7      record of success.

       8             Estimates are, that the interlocks have

       9      reduced repeat DWI offenses by 67 percent.

      10             Using this technology in all school buses is

      11      one way to prevent a drunk driver from operating the

      12      bus.

      13             Advancing technology will eventually give us

      14      other options we can explore as well.

      15             Technology is being developed which detects

      16      alcohol in the driver's skin when he or she touches

      17      the vehicle's steering wheel or gear shift.

      18             Smaller breath-test devices are also being

      19      developed as a part of the vehicle's key, which

      20      would require the driver to breathe into it before

      21      starting the car.

      22             During the course of today's hearing,

      23      discussions will include, but not limited to:

      24             Crashes caused by intoxicated bus drivers;

      25             Whether New York State's current pupil


       1      transportation laws should be strengthened to

       2      further protect children from drunk drivers;

       3             And recent legislation that would require

       4      ignition interlocks be installed into school buses.

       5             The Committee will hear testimony from

       6      concerned parents, as well as experts in the field

       7      of law enforcement, education, transportation, and

       8      technology.

       9             And we thank all of you who are testifying,

      10      and for being here today.

      11             I would also like to note for the record that

      12      we have received written testimony from the New York

      13      State Department of Motor Vehicles, and the New York

      14      State Department of Transportation.

      15             Carl, do you want to say anything?

      16             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Good morning.  I'm

      17      Senator Carl Marcellino, and I'm pleased to be here

      18      today.

      19             This is an important hearing, and an

      20      important issue to be discussed.

      21             The incident in question occurred at my

      22      church, St. Edwards in Syosset.

      23             I live in Syosset.

      24             The person whose house the bus went into is a

      25      good friend of mine, and a commissioner on the


       1      Syosset Fire Department.

       2             So I know the situation up there, I know the

       3      road up there, I know the driveway up there that

       4      they went through, and the whole situation.

       5             My mind is open on this issue.  I have not

       6      been convinced either way: to go with interlock; not

       7      to go with interlock...whatever.

       8             The thing that I have, is that those of you

       9      who come up, if you are opposed to this device being

      10      placed on a bus, come up with an alternative.

      11             Just don't just say no.  That's not

      12      acceptable.

      13             You got to give us something to work with;

      14      otherwise, we're going to come up with our own

      15      answers, and, you may not like them.

      16             So, my suggestion is:  Give us suggestions,

      17      give us alternatives, other than simply saying no.

      18             Thank you.

      19             Lee?

      20             SENATOR ZELDIN:  Good morning.

      21             I want to thank you, Chairman Fuschillo, for

      22      having this hearing this morning.

      23             I would like to really attribute my comments

      24      to what Senator Marcellino said as well.

      25             I too come here with an open mind, to hear


       1      all sides, and I ask for suggestions from any

       2      opponents.

       3             I've heard a lot of thoughts and feedback on

       4      both sides of the issue, so, I think that this

       5      hearing is a great way to flush out all of the

       6      arguments and come up with the best solution.

       7             Thank you again for -- to Chairman Fuschillo

       8      for his leadership on this issue.

       9             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much,

      10      Senator Zeldin, and Senator Marcellino.

      11             And to my left, we are joined by

      12      Senator Dilan, who is the ranking member of the

      13      Transportation Committee.

      14             SENATOR DILAN:  I would just like to say

      15      good morning to all, and I look forward to hearing

      16      the testimony this morning.

      17             And also thank Senator Fuschillo.

      18             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Before we go to our first

      19      witness, the -- one of the pieces of legislation is

      20      Senate Print Number 1347, by Senator Maziarz, which

      21      would require that any school bus manufactured for

      22      use in this state after July 1, 2015, would be

      23      equipped with an ignition interlock device, and it

      24      must be operated in an unsupervised manner.

      25             Additionally, buses manufactured prior to


       1      July 1, 2015, the school board may, by resolution,

       2      require the retrofitting of an ignition interlock

       3      device in any or all such buses, and the cost of the

       4      installation and retrofitting is aidable

       5      transportation.

       6             The first individual to testify is

       7      Melissa Escudero.

       8             Good morning, Melissa.

       9             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Good morning.

      10             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And thank you very much

      11      for being here.

      12             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Thank you for having

      13      me.

      14             I would like to thank Senator Fuschillo, and

      15      the Senate Standing Committee on Transportation, for

      16      inviting me here today.

      17             My name is Melissa Escudero.

      18             I am one of the parents whose child was a

      19      victim on Wednesday afternoon, October 3, 2012.

      20             My son and four other children boarded the

      21      school bus on their way home, but they never made

      22      it.

      23             I was telephoned a little after 3 p.m., to

      24      come to the school immediately.

      25             For my safety, I was not told at the time


       1      that my son was involved in an accident; however, my

       2      intuition said something was wrong, as my son should

       3      have been halfway home at that time.

       4             That afternoon was when my world turned

       5      upside down.

       6             Sorry.

       7             My husband and I left immediately to the

       8      school.  The anxiety of the unknown was both

       9      emotionally and physically painful for me.  The time

      10      seemed like eternity.  The possibility of something

      11      tragic happening just overtook me.

      12             You see, Christian is my only child.  He was

      13      born premature, and I almost lost him then.  So for

      14      me, he is my miracle baby, although he was 8 years

      15      old at the time of the accident.

      16             I was unable to reach the school by car,

      17      since the traffic on the main road was at a halt due

      18      to the accident.

      19             Therefore, I had to get out my vehicle, and

      20      run blocks to the scene.

      21             One lady even stopped me to say she heard

      22      someone may have died.

      23             I then saw my son's school bus smashed inside

      24      someone's home.  My heart just stopped, as I thought

      25      there were casualties.


       1             Seconds later, I was then approached by many

       2      officials, informing me that my son was okay, and

       3      that he was a hero.

       4             According to police officials, parents, and

       5      school staff, they said my son had checked on the

       6      defendant's condition.

       7             My son noticed the defendant was bleeding on

       8      the side of his head and was nonresponsive.

       9             All the children on the bus were crying and

      10      scared, as they were trapped.

      11             My son moved to the back of the bus, and was

      12      able to lift the emergency lever and escort the

      13      children out of the minibus.

      14             It was then, parents came to rescue the

      15      children.

      16             This accident was called "a miracle."

      17             This accident occurred during dismissal time.

      18             Any other day, parents wait for their

      19      children in front of that very same home that was

      20      struck.

      21             The owner of the home had left earlier, to

      22      run some errands.

      23             Though my son is physically okay, he

      24      experienced nightmares for the first two nights

      25      after the accident.


       1             We even prayed for the defendant that night

       2      of the accident, thinking that he had a heart

       3      attack, or was of some sort of medication.

       4             It was the following day the media released

       5      that the defendant was DWI.

       6             As for myself, I experienced constant chest

       7      pains, and have visited the ER twice.

       8             Though my son continues to take the school

       9      bus, I continue to feel anxiety every time he boards

      10      the school bus.

      11             I am fortunate that I am speaking a different

      12      story.

      13             My feelings toward the defendant, is that he

      14      act irresponsible and selfish.  He took these

      15      innocent children's lives into his own hands.

      16             Though the school bus company reported that

      17      the defendant had a clean driver's license, I highly

      18      doubt that this was the first time he drank behind

      19      the wheel.

      20             For this person to have passed out while

      21      driving, he had to have consumed an abundance of

      22      alcohol.

      23             There have been three other school bus

      24      accidents after this case.  All accidents were due

      25      to DWI.


       1             Something needs to be done immediately in

       2      regards to these bus drivers getting drunk during

       3      the hours of driving students to and from school.

       4             We cannot continue to let this happen, and

       5      wait for a tragedy to happen to react with tougher

       6      laws.

       7             I am currently advocating to installing

       8      ignition interlock devices on each school bus, and I

       9      will not stop until this law is approved.  This law

      10      will not only benefit the safety of the children,

      11      but pedestrians and citizens as well.

      12             As for the defendant, I hope he seeks

      13      professional counseling with his alcohol addiction,

      14      and that he never be able to work with children

      15      again, nor regain a license to drive.

      16             I pray that the court sentences the defendant

      17      has -- has see fit as above-action mentioned.

      18             Let us all act together, and not wait for

      19      tragedy to strike.

      20             Thank you, and God bless.

      21             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much,

      22      Melissa.

      23             And we are joined by Christian.

      24             Christian, thank you very much, and we

      25      applaud you.


       1                  [Applause.]

       2             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  We applaud you, young

       3      man, for having the courage, and the sense, to act

       4      the way you did, and not panic.

       5             You saved the lives of many of your friends

       6      there on the bus.

       7             And we really appreciate you being here.

       8             But this gets you out of school too, doesn't

       9      it?

      10             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  No, not really.

      11             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  No?  Okay, he's got to go

      12      back.

      13             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Got to go afterwards.

      14             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  So, you stay here all

      15      day.  We'll give you a little note, an excuse.

      16      Senator Marcellino will sign it, because it's in his

      17      district.

      18                  [Laughter.]

      19             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  But, Melissa, we thank

      20      you very much.

      21             And, I had met you previously in my office.

      22             And it's nice to meet your son.  And your mom

      23      is here as well.

      24             And because of you, we're here today.

      25             And, the individual was recently sentenced to


       1      one year in jail, as I recall.  Correct?

       2             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Yes.

       3             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  So, any questions from

       4      anybody?

       5             Senator Zeldin?

       6             No?

       7             Melissa, thank you very much for your

       8      testimony.

       9             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Thank you.

      10             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  We appreciate it.

      11             Christian, thank you.

      12             MELISSA L. ESCUDERO:  Thank you.

      13             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  The next speaker is

      14      Assistant District Attorney Brendan Ahern, from the

      15      Vehicular Crimes Bureau of the Nassau County

      16      District Attorney's Office.

      17             Good morning, Brendan.

      18             BRENDAN AHERN:  Good morning.

      19             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And thank you very much

      20      for being here.

      21             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you for having me.

      22             Thank you, Senator Fuschillo, Chairman;

      23      honorable members of the Transportation Committee;

      24      distinguished guests and other speakers that you're

      25      hearing from today; members of the public that are


       1      here today.

       2             This is a critically important hearing.

       3             And, thank you to all our partners who are

       4      committed to protecting our schoolchildren, who are

       5      committed to saving lives.

       6             I will be reading a prepared statement from

       7      the Honorable Kathleen M. Rice, district attorney of

       8      Nassau County, and president-elect of the Nassau --

       9      excuse me, New York State District Attorneys

      10      Association.

      11             At the conclusion, I would certainly be

      12      available to take any questions from the Committee.

      13             My name is Assistant District Attorney

      14      Brendan Ahern.

      15             I'm a supervising assistant in the

      16      Nassau County District Attorney's Vehicular Crimes

      17      Bureau, where I'm tasked with prosecuting homicides

      18      involving drunk, drugged, or otherwise criminally

      19      dangerous driving.

      20             I'm also the supervisor of misdemeanor DWI

      21      trials, and our Felony Screening Bureau.

      22             The District Attorney deeply regrets to not

      23      be able to be here personally today, but she has

      24      personally requested that I deliver the following

      25      address:


       1             Where we have the power to save the life of a

       2      child, we must act.

       3             Where we possess the technology to prevent an

       4      unspeakable tragedy, involving the injury, and

       5      death, of a bus full of schoolchildren, we must act.

       6             Where we possess the ability to protect our

       7      children from the trauma of being the victims of,

       8      and witnesses to, a violent crime, we must act.

       9             Our young schoolchildren are defenseless.

      10             They are defenseless in the hands of an adult

      11      who chooses to drink and drive.

      12             We must do all that we can to defend and

      13      protect these defenseless children.

      14             We must act, and we must act now on this

      15      issue.

      16             Waiting to act until after a school bus full

      17      of young children crashes, sending children from

      18      their school bus, to the hospital, or, God forbid,

      19      the morgue, is unacceptable.

      20             District Attorney Rice joins

      21      Senator Fuschillo and all of our partners in

      22      supporting this commonsense legislation, to use our

      23      advances in technology, to protect our

      24      schoolchildren.

      25             Ignition interlocks ensure that there's a


       1      last line of defense to protect our children, no

       2      matter what warning signs are missed that a school

       3      bus driver is a problem drinker.

       4             We've already seen the need for interlocks.

       5             We have seen recent examples, across

       6      Long Island and across the state, where the safety

       7      systems in the commercial-vehicle industry failed.

       8             Self-regulation of alcohol and drug use by

       9      that industry is woefully inadequate.  It's failed

      10      repeatedly; it's going to fail again.

      11             But no place is that failure more defenseless

      12      than in the vehicles we entrust to transport our

      13      children.

      14             The technology's available to ensure that a

      15      drunk driver never, never gets behind the wheel of a

      16      school bus again.

      17             Let's act.

      18             Our local communities here on Long Island

      19      have already seen these several instances where

      20      individuals with serious drinking problems have

      21      gotten behind the wheel of a school bus full of

      22      children and driven drunk.  They are gravely

      23      dangerous when they do so.

      24             These warning signs must not be ignored.

      25             In March 2013, a school bus driver in


       1      Suffolk County was sentenced, after being found

       2      driving drunk.  He was highly intoxicated on the

       3      Long Island Expressway, which, as you know, is

       4      busiest, fastest road on Long Island.

       5             He had a shredded tire, a half-empty bottle

       6      of vodka in the center console, multiple young

       7      children on board, and a .23 blood-alcohol content,

       8      nearly three times the legal limit.

       9             And as the Senator mentioned, that's well

      10      beyond the commercial limit.

      11             Studies have shown that a crash is nearly

      12      guaranteed at that astronomical blood-alcohol level.

      13             Those studies were the basis for the

      14      enactment of the aggravated DWI statute, setting the

      15      level of aggravated DWI at a .18.

      16             This bus driver was a few drinks beyond that.

      17             The children on that bus were defenseless.

      18             They were saved by concerned citizens who

      19      called 911 because of the erratic driving.

      20             Other drivers called 911, and they saved

      21      those children before it was too late.

      22             If that drunk bus driver is not stopped by

      23      members of Suffolk County law enforcement, under

      24      those circumstances, he's capable of killing every

      25      single one of those children on that bus.


       1             An ignition interlock would have prevented

       2      that highly drunk bus driver from even turning the

       3      bus on.

       4             It's, of course, important to note that this

       5      is a statewide issue.

       6             To exemplify that, I draw your attention to a

       7      Steuben County criminal case from several years ago.

       8             In that case, a school bus driver was driving

       9      drunk with a fully loaded school bus.  There were

      10      over 30 children on board.

      11             In the town of Thurston, at 7:00 in the

      12      morning, the drunk school bus driver drove off the

      13      road, into a ditch, across a driveway,

      14      overcorrected, and veered all the way across the

      15      street, where he nearly drove across the other side

      16      of the street.

      17             Excuse me, "she."

      18             The force of the crash into the ditch

      19      propelled several children's heads into the roof of

      20      the school bus.  They suffered serious head trauma.

      21             The drunk school bus driver continued on her

      22      route.

      23             It wasn't until hours later that a safety

      24      resource officer at that school heard about the

      25      crash, and she was tested.


       1             Hours later, she's still above the legal

       2      limit, at a .10.

       3             She would later plead guilty to DWI,

       4      34 counts of endangering the welfare of a child, and

       5      two counts of felony second-degree vehicular

       6      assault.

       7             An ignition interlock would have prevented

       8      that school bus driver, that drunk driver, from

       9      starting the bus.

      10             The interlock would have prevented the

      11      injury, serious head trauma, to two children.

      12             The interlock would have prevented the trauma

      13      that's inflicted upon every child victim and their

      14      parents, and that community.

      15             We know that the betrayal of trust is

      16      alarming and shocking in each instance where an

      17      adult is trusted to -- by parents to safeguard their

      18      children.

      19             But sometimes the greater shock, is that no

      20      child is seriously physically injured, or worse.

      21             In Nassau County, we prosecuted an alarming

      22      and shocking case.

      23             It was alarming because of the egregious

      24      conduct of the driver -- the school bus driver, and

      25      happily shocking that no child was seriously


       1      physically injured.

       2             It was, The People of the State of New York

       3      versus Frederick Flowers.

       4             You just heard from the victims.

       5             It was just after 3 p.m. on a Wednesday, this

       6      past October, five young schoolchildren boarded a

       7      school bus outside of their elementary school,

       8      St. Edward the Confessor, in Syosset.

       9             There were two 9-year-olds, an 8-year-old, a

      10      6-year-old, and a little 5-year-old.

      11             The children were completely defenseless as

      12      they walked past their school bus driver,

      13      Frederick Flowers, to take their seats on the bus.

      14      Not a single one of them would know how to identify

      15      a drunk driver at that moment.

      16             When Mr. Flowers closed that door, and

      17      locked that door behind the children, they were

      18      trapped.  He was just moments away from imposing a

      19      nightmare on these children.  There's nothing that

      20      they could do to stop him.

      21             Mr. Flowers had spent the hours leading up

      22      to that moment, drinking.

      23             The children spent their day at school in the

      24      care of their children [sic].  Their parents were at

      25      work at home, at home, elsewhere, believing that


       1      their children were safe, and they'd see them soon.

       2             Mr. Flowers had passed every pre-employment

       3      screening, that including, drug and alcohol testing,

       4      and a background check, a DMV check.

       5             But the screenings don't stop him that day,

       6      from going to a local store, picking up alcohol, and

       7      secretly drinking it.

       8             Nothing was in place to stop Mr. Flowers.

       9             He put the key in the ignition, pulled out of

      10      the driveway of the school, and immediately careened

      11      across the street -- immediately across the street,

      12      off the road, across a lawn, and he plowed into the

      13      garage of a local home with devastating force.

      14             I brought for you today, these exhibits,

      15      because you must see with your own eyes, and

      16      understand the force that this bus went into this

      17      house with.

      18             We speak around at high schools, and we show

      19      these types of pictures to kids, to teach them a

      20      lesson.

      21             And one thing I'm always reminded to say, is

      22      there was people on that bus.  There were children

      23      on that bus.

      24             Unbelievably, none of the children were hurt.

      25             Miraculously, and fatefully, the homeowners


       1      were out of harm's way.

       2             Amazingly, not a single parent was out in

       3      front of this home, because that's where they

       4      usually stood every day at dismissal time, waiting

       5      for their children.

       6             The drunk bus driver was injured.  He was

       7      airlifted away from the scene.

       8             That's how serious this crash was.

       9             Medical personnel drew his blood, because

      10      everyone must have assumed that this was a medical

      11      emergency.

      12             How could he be drunk?

      13             His only serious medical condition, was he

      14      was intoxicated.

      15             Members of the Nassau County Vehicular Crimes

      16      Bureau worked with the Nassau County Police

      17      Department.

      18             We secured his first-drawn blood, we tested

      19      it.  It was a .10.

      20             He was charged with multiple counts of

      21      endangering the welfare of a child, reckless

      22      endangerment, and felony DWI under the Leandra's Law

      23      statute that was championed by this Committee.

      24             On February 4th of this year, he pled guilty.

      25             Just this past Monday, he was sentenced.  It


       1      was, actually, one year, plus five years of a

       2      stringent probation, where he'll have an ignition

       3      interlock.

       4             Now that he's sentenced, he'll have other

       5      stringent conditions placed upon him.

       6             But no matter how stringent the sentence, no

       7      amount of time, no amount of punishment, will make

       8      it okay for the young schoolchildren.

       9             The criminal justice system is not equipped

      10      to take away the trauma and the nightmares inflicted

      11      upon a child victim; inflicted upon parents, who

      12      trust that their parents [sic] will be protected

      13      when they leave home, and they're going to see them

      14      when they get home from work.

      15             An ignition interlock would have prevented

      16      the entire incident from occurring.

      17             This technology, we have it now, would have

      18      prevented drunk Mr. Flowers from ever starting the

      19      school bus.

      20             The technology would have prevented that

      21      van -- excuse me, that bus from launching into that

      22      home like a missile.

      23             The ignition interlock would have saved those

      24      parents and children from the nightmares of having a

      25      violent crime inflicted upon them.


       1             We must act, and we must act now.

       2             Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice

       3      stood with Senator Fuschillo when he proposed this

       4      commonsense legislation back in October of 2012.

       5             The District Attorney fully supports passage

       6      of this legislation.

       7             She encourages this Committee to bring the

       8      bill to a floor for a full vote by the New York

       9      State Senate.

      10             How often can we say that a law will

      11      completely eradicate a particular crime?

      12             Placing ignition interlocks into school buses

      13      will prevent a drunk driver from ever getting behind

      14      the wheel of a school bus again.

      15             It will never happen again.

      16             This is truly a public-safety victory, and

      17      justice for the parents and children who have

      18      already been put in harm's way.

      19             That is not the say there's not more to be

      20      done.  Issues related to drugged driving, and steps

      21      that could be taken in the commercial vehicle

      22      industry, also need of be addressed.

      23             We will once again look to the proactive

      24      leadership of Senator Fuschillo, of this Committee.

      25             We are grateful to them, and all the partners


       1      in public safety, for the efforts that keep our

       2      citizens safe.

       3             Thank you for this time.

       4             Thank you, Senator Fuschillo;

       5             Thank you, members of the Committee;

       6             And thank you to the members of the public

       7      who have joined us here today.

       8             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And I thank you very much

       9      for your testimony, and the work of Nassau District

      10      Attorney, and your office, and Maureen McCormick, in

      11      combating drunk driving in Nassau County.

      12             You're certainly the model for the entire

      13      state of New York, and I appreciate your testimony

      14      in support, and you being here today.

      15             Assemblyman McDonough?

      16             Assemblyman Dave McDonough.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  I would just like to

      18      add, I'm the ranking member of the Assembly

      19      Transportation Committee, and I applaud

      20      Senator Fuschillo for what he's done already with

      21      Leandra's Law, and all of that.

      22             But what you just testified to, and what we

      23      heard from young Christian's mother, and all of

      24      that, proves that there is a need for this, because

      25      most laws are passed as punishment after the fact.


       1             This is something that can prevent the fact

       2      that some children could be seriously injured, or

       3      even killed, in such an accident.

       4             And thank you for what you do, and this is a

       5      very, very serious issue.

       6             And I intend to do all I can in the Assembly,

       7      to help on the bills that are put forward.

       8             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you, Assemblyman.

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  And just, for a piece

      10      of information, I've introduced the Senator's bill

      11      in the Assembly, so it is pending there now, also

      12      making its way through committee.

      13             And we will, myself, and

      14      Assemblyman McDonough, who's on Transportation, will

      15      do our best to get it through that committee

      16      process, and to the floor for a vote also.

      17             Thank you.

      18             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you, Assemblyman.

      19             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Brendan, thanks for

      20      being here.

      21             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you, Senator.

      22             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  And thank Kathleen for

      23      her public service.  It's well honored, and well

      24      respected.

      25             What is the current law regarding bus drivers


       1      and drunk driving?

       2             Are they allowed -- for example, is a bus

       3      driver allowed to -- forgetting the company's

       4      policies, is it -- is the bus driver allowed to have

       5      a drink?

       6             A glass of beer at lunch, for example?

       7             BRENDAN AHERN:  The bus drivers are going to

       8      fall under more prohibitive statutes right now;

       9      commercial-driving statutes.

      10             Commercial drivers have a more restrictive

      11      DWI limits.

      12             Where you typically think of a .08 as being

      13      the limit for a misdemeanor DWI for your average

      14      driver, the commercial-driving statutes are actually

      15      below that, with a Commercial DWI I and

      16      Commercial DWI II, that start, I believe, as low

      17      as --

      18             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  It's .04.

      19             BRENDAN AHERN:  -- a .04.

      20             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Senator Fuschillo just

      21      whispered it in my ear.

      22             BRENDAN AHERN:  I appreciate that,

      23      Senator Fuschillo.

      24             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  He's trying to make me

      25      look good.


       1             BRENDAN AHERN:  We don't get that many

       2      commercial drivers, but --

       3             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  He's trying to make me

       4      look good.  That's okay.

       5             BRENDAN AHERN:  The obvious issue, and the

       6      reason that you have the more restrictive commercial

       7      statutes --

       8             And we've seen it, not just in school bus

       9      drivers.  We have a recent case out in

      10      Locust Valley, with an alleged drugged driver

      11      driving a cement truck.

      12             -- is that the regulation is there, because

      13      when these types of vehicles crash, you're talking

      14      about mass casualties.  You're talking about,

      15      almost -- it's almost fortunate that there's not

      16      going to be a death.

      17             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  I don't disagree with

      18      you that -- of the seriousness of the situation.

      19             I just was curious.

      20             So a driver -- a commercial driver is

      21      allowed -- you know, .04 is still, maybe a drink,

      22      depending upon the body weight, and so forth.

      23             They are allowed to imbibe alcohol?

      24             BRENDAN AHERN:  By the current statute, yes.

      25             I think -- you know, but I think, when you


       1      look to -- if you looked across the room, back to,

       2      you know, the parent that just spoke, I think

       3      there's an expectation that every bus driver ought

       4      to get behind the wheel at a zero-zero.

       5             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  So if I put in

       6      legislation, and Senator Fuschillo co-crimes with me

       7      on this one, and so does Senator Zeldin, and our

       8      friends in the Assembly carry it, and Senator Dilan

       9      comes, and they say, "Absolutely zero tolerance for

      10      alcohol in commercial driving," that would be

      11      supported by your association?

      12             BRENDAN AHERN:  It would be supported, but

      13      the one thing you have to keep in mind, and I think

      14      that what these cases speak to, is that, and,

      15      sometimes, you know, you have a guy at .23 out on

      16      the Long Island Expressway, that statute is not

      17      enough, because that guy has a major problem.

      18             To get yourself up to a .23, you're a raging

      19      drinker; and, so, the statute isn't enough.

      20             What happens with this ignition interlock, is

      21      you're going to have something in place that's gonna

      22      prevent that guy from ever starting the ignition.

      23             And I think that's the critical measure here,

      24      is, where the statute sometimes will be violated by

      25      someone who is intent on doing it, the ignition


       1      interlock doesn't let them.

       2             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Thank you.

       3             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Senator Zeldin?

       4             SENATOR ZELDIN:  Thank you, Brendan, for

       5      being here as well.

       6             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you, Senator.  Thank

       7      you.

       8             SENATOR ZELDIN:  My stepmother, Carol, is

       9      actually a retired, out of the DWI unit for the

      10      probation department.  And she has -- you know, my

      11      whole life, she dedicated her life to public

      12      service, with regards to this particular issue.

      13             As I listened to the last speaker, I think of

      14      my own daughters who were born prematurely, and, I

      15      think:  What would I would be feeling if those were

      16      my daughters in that school bus?

      17             And I also believe that the legislation can

      18      work as a deterrent.

      19             I come here with an open mind, because I also

      20      have concerns.  I see that there's a possibility

      21      that the legislation can impact every driver.

      22             Every single driver; not just the one driver

      23      on the Long Island Expressway who has a .23 percent,

      24      but the other almost 100 percent of drivers who do

      25      the right thing.


       1             BRENDAN AHERN:  Sure.

       2             SENATOR ZELDIN:  I'm concerned by the cost as

       3      well, but, first and foremost, I'm concerned by just

       4      how -- you know, how broad it is.

       5             But I do agree that, you know, it's a

       6      deterrent, so I feel conflicted, and I definitely

       7      come here open-minded.

       8             With the situation with the driver on the

       9      Long Island Expressway, with the .23 percent, or,

      10      the driver in this particular crash, after the

      11      accidents, what have we learned as far as, you know,

      12      their history; signs that might have allowed us to

      13      identify, before the accident, that they might have

      14      a drinking problem, a past history?

      15             Because I think, as far as coming up with

      16      solutions, part of it is just identifying who

      17      shouldn't be behind the wheel before the accidents

      18      happen.

      19             So I'm just kind of curious, if you have any

      20      additional information on these defendants, and

      21      their past history?

      22             BRENDAN AHERN:  With respect to the driver on

      23      the LIE, I can't speak to his history.  Because of

      24      the Suffolk County case, I wasn't involved, in any

      25      meaningful way, in that investigation.


       1             But with respect to Mr. Flowers, as I

       2      mentioned, this is an individual, he passed every

       3      pre-employment screening, that includes alcohol and

       4      drug screening, a DMV check, a background check.

       5             One real alarming bit of information I

       6      learned from a separate case, I mentioned that an

       7      alleged drugged driver in a cement truck, we're

       8      still talking about commercial vehicles, is that

       9      there is a tremendous bit of regulation and

      10      investigation into these people who are getting

      11      behind the wheel of commercial vehicles; however,

      12      it's inadequate.

      13             The "alleged driver in the cement truck" case

      14      had a history of -- a rampant history of offenses

      15      involving crack cocaine; a past DWI, involving

      16      drugs.  And his employer didn't know, and they were

      17      completely within the bounds of the federal

      18      guidelines that mandates investigation into these

      19      drivers.

      20             With respect to Mr. Flowers, I would expect

      21      that he passed all these screenings.  And when

      22      you're keeping up with the current legislation, and

      23      the current need for those background checks, that's

      24      sufficient.

      25             It's difficult to monitor what a person's


       1      doing at home.

       2             Mr. Flowers, to go home every day, I would

       3      imagine was drinking.  I imagine he's a problem

       4      drinker, for someone that's going to take it out

       5      onto the road, out into their workday, out to drive

       6      little children around, knowing full well.

       7             And, you know, we mentioned these three or

       8      four instances here that are before you.

       9             These are anecdotal.  These are all crashes.

      10             And I think that we, as law enforcement,

      11      everyone would be naive to believe that these are

      12      the sole instances of people who are driving while

      13      impaired by drugs or impaired by alcohol.  This is

      14      going on.

      15             The only people that are getting caught are

      16      the people that are actually crashing.

      17             So, Mr. Flowers passed his background

      18      check.  He would have been someone that, I think, as

      19      a mother and father --

      20             I'm a father.  I also have two premature kids

      21      at home, and I love them with all of my heart.

      22             -- this horrifies me.

      23             I think about watching my kids get onto the

      24      school bus in a couple of years, and not really

      25      knowing.


       1             But you think about an ignition interlock,

       2      and that's one thing you know for sure, this guy is

       3      not drinking.

       4             SENATOR ZELDIN:  Just my closing thought is,

       5      you know, I'm definitely eager to get behind the

       6      best possible solution.  And I would agree that

       7      losing one life is really too much.

       8             BRENDAN AHERN:  Sure.

       9             SENATOR ZELDIN:  I haven't yet been able to

      10      overcome that hurdle, internally, of knowing, as we

      11      have this hearing, just how many bus drivers all

      12      across the state of New York right now are driving

      13      their buses, and they're following all the rules.

      14             And, I just don't know if we should be

      15      requiring every single one of them to blow into an

      16      ignition interlock device, but, I'm very

      17      open-minded.

      18             I look forward to getting behind the best

      19      possible solution.  I'm just struggling with that

      20      particular dynamic of this.

      21             BRENDAN AHERN:  Sure.

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  You talked about the

      23      background checks.  And I also see in the

      24      documentation that they're required to have annual

      25      physicals.


       1             First, in the background check that they take

       2      when they become licensed and employed as a school

       3      bus driver, is there any requirement in the current

       4      law that they have to have repeat background checks

       5      periodically through the course of a year?

       6             Is the employer required to run their DMV

       7      abstract on a regular basis?

       8             Do you know?

       9             BRENDAN AHERN:  Not that I'm aware of, but I

      10      would say, I believe that the physical is actually a

      11      biannual physical.  It's a medical certification.

      12      They have to appear in front of a doctor, and in

      13      some regards, that's a really inadequate physical.

      14             They're basically attesting themselves that

      15      they don't have an issue.

      16             I harken back to that -- I keep going back to

      17      that Locust Valley cement-truck crash, but that was

      18      an individual that is alleged to have been under the

      19      prescription for heavy-duty narcotics for a

      20      significant period of time.  And that was not

      21      attested to on his medical questionnaire that went

      22      before the DMV, that went before his employer.  And

      23      there's no check.

      24             But I don't think that there's any issue,

      25      that I know of, in terms of having to do repeat


       1      background checks.

       2             And when you speak to the DMV checks, the

       3      other issue there, is that, typically, those DMV

       4      checks are limited.  They go back about three years.

       5             There's a full -- there's a range of

       6      different DMV checks that are available.  The

       7      shortest one is three years.

       8             There's, of course, a lifetime DMV, and I

       9      don't believe that that is available to employers

      10      that are looking to hire commercial vehicles,

      11      because that alleged drugged driver up in

      12      Locust Valley had a pretty extensive criminal

      13      history and a pretty extensive DMV history, that his

      14      employer wasn't aware of, because they had

      15      three years of information, and, really, that's not

      16      enough.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  So I guess it would

      18      be logical then, also, in lieu -- in addition to

      19      this legislation, is to consider maybe allowing the

      20      employers to have access to the more lengthy DMV

      21      abstracts for these commercial drivers' licenses,

      22      and, also, maybe to change the scope and requirement

      23      of the medical exam.

      24             Would you agree?

      25             BRENDAN AHERN:  I think that would definitely


       1      be a worthy consideration.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Thank you.

       3             Thank you, Senator.

       4             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And thank you very much.

       5             Just a couple of footnotes here:

       6             Sweden and Finland currently require ignition

       7      interlocks on all school buses and commercial

       8      vehicles.

       9             And we talked about a few recent incidents,

      10      but, in January of this year, in Farmingdale, an

      11      individual was driving a GMC Omnibus, with four

      12      students, crashed into a parked car.  No injuries,

      13      but he's facing aggravated drunk-driving charges.

      14             In Ronkonkoma, of last year, we talked about

      15      a minibus, unoccupied; driver was drunk, with a BAC

      16      nearly three times the legal limit, a half-empty

      17      bottle of vodka in the vehicle, when he was stopped

      18      on the LIE.  And he just dropped off students from

      19      middle school when he was pulled over.

      20             We know about the Syosset incident, crash,

      21      last year.

      22             In another state, a school bus driver in

      23      southeastern Minnesota, suspected of being under the

      24      influence while driving kids to summer classes, was

      25      arrested, charged with third-degree driving under


       1      the influence.  Authorities received the report:

       2      Poor-driving conduct while children were on board,

       3      heading to summer school.

       4             In New Jersey, a New Jersey school bus driver

       5      was arrested for DUI, after the children she was

       6      taking home called the parents while they were on

       7      bus, to complain about the driving.  Nervous pupils

       8      contacted the parents after the bus driver was

       9      allegedly falling asleep behind the wheel and

      10      swerving the bus while she was driving.  The police

      11      caught up with her, 46-year-old school bus driver.

      12      Her BAC was found to be .25, more than three times

      13      the legal limit.

      14             In Florida, a Lee County school bus driver

      15      was arrested, after deputies say she drove drunk to

      16      work, where she was to get behind the wheel of a

      17      bus.  She's charged with driving under the

      18      influence.  She was weaving her personal vehicle in

      19      and out.

      20             In Alfred, New York, a school bus driver,

      21      recorded on tape, reckless driving while

      22      intoxicated.  The students reported she was driving

      23      70 miles an hour, and at one point, ran over a

      24      mailbox, drove backwards down a hill.  They

      25      eventually escaped through the emergency exit, and


       1      she was arrested.

       2             Another case, in -- a former Alfred-Almond

       3      school bus driver agreed to plead guilty to felony

       4      driving while intoxicated, and as you said,

       5      37 counts of third-degree reckless endangerment.

       6             So there are many cases, unfortunately.  And

       7      I'm getting by the testimony, that the first line of

       8      defense is the ignition interlock.

       9             Whether they're are drunk or not, that school

      10      bus won't start.

      11             BRENDAN AHERN:  Absolutely.  It is the

      12      fail-safe.

      13             We can turn to all the parents in this state,

      14      and say:  You're never going to have a drunk driver

      15      get behind the wheel again.

      16             And that's meaningful.  That's powerful.

      17             There's no other real opportunities that we

      18      get, that come along too often to stop a crime.

      19             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You know, as I mentioned

      20      in my opening statement, there are many technologies

      21      that are being tested right now --

      22             BRENDAN AHERN:  Sure.

      23             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  -- from car

      24      manufacturers, whether it's, the steering wheel,

      25      your perspiration, or the button that you push, in


       1      some of the cars, to come on.

       2             And that's going to happen.  It may not

       3      happen in my lifetime, but these cars are going to

       4      be made with some sort of ignition interlock system

       5      to prevent this.

       6             BRENDAN AHERN:  Absolutely.

       7             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You know, the first line

       8      of defense, that if somebody has any alcohol in

       9      them, they're not going to be able to start that

      10      car.

      11             Brendan, I really appreciate, again, the

      12      support of your office, and the District Attorney,

      13      and your testimony, and you being here today.

      14             BRENDAN AHERN:  Thank you very much, Senator.

      15             Thank you members of the Committee.

      16             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Peter Mannella, the

      17      executive director of the New York Association for

      18      Pupil Transportation.

      19             Good morning, Peter.

      20             PETER MANNELLA:  Good morning, Senators.

      21             I want to share this --

      22             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Just, your name and title

      23      for the record.

      24             PETER MANNELLA:  I'm sorry.

      25             Peter Mannella.


       1             Peter Mannella, executive director for the

       2      New York Association for Pupil Transportation.

       3             Our members are individuals across the state

       4      in school districts, private contractors, BOCES,

       5      Head-Start programs, who are responsible, overall,

       6      for the transportation of our children.

       7             Many of our members also are school bus

       8      contractors, many of whom are in the room today, and

       9      we welcome them, along with several school

      10      representatives.

      11             We are, first, and foremost, a school

      12      transportation industry --

      13             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And the gentleman to your

      14      left?

      15             PETER MANNELLA:  Oh, thank you, Senator.  You

      16      just saved my job.

      17             Our association president, Richard Gallagher,

      18      from Bay Shore School District here in

      19      Suffolk County.

      20             And my apologies to him.

      21             And, thank you.

      22             There goes my evaluation for the year.

      23             We launch right in there.

      24             We, as an industry, are safety-focused.  It's

      25      what we wake up with every morning.


       1             Anyone who is responsible for children on

       2      school buses, focuses, first, on their safety.

       3      Right after that, on efficiency, and cost to the

       4      taxpayers.

       5             But, first, every day, on safety.

       6             There is no one in this industry who is not

       7      appalled by the pictures that I know you saw here,

       8      and that have been across the newspapers, and we're

       9      concerned about -- more than concerned about.

      10             All of us have been parents, have families,

      11      and understand the scariness of an episode like

      12      Christian went through, and his family went through.

      13             And there's nothing we can say to make that

      14      better.

      15             I will start, rather than burying the story,

      16      with the fact that we do not support mandatory

      17      installation of ignition interlock devices on school

      18      buses.

      19             That out on the table, our discussion goes

      20      this way, and I'll go back to my statement.  I just

      21      wanted to get that up front so we're not questioning

      22      where I'm coming from.

      23             There are 50,000 licensed school bus drivers

      24      in New York State.  These women and men are fine,

      25      hard-working, dedicated professionals who care for


       1      their student riders.

       2             As an example, the cement-truck incident you

       3      were talking about, that school bus driver was not

       4      intoxicated.  That school bus driver cared enough

       5      about his children, to swerve the bus in the

       6      direction of where the truck was coming from, and

       7      sacrificed his life to make sure that the impact

       8      didn't affect more children.

       9             That's the kind of people who drive our

      10      school buses.  They are not people who drink before

      11      they go to work, or take drugs before they go to

      12      work.

      13             And I think it's important for us to state

      14      that right at the top.  We're not talking about a

      15      preponderance.

      16             The DA indicated they thread don't see a lot

      17      of commercial drivers' licenses come before them,

      18      and that's because, they're trained, more dedicated,

      19      more focused on the job they have, because their

      20      livelihood comes from being a good driver.  And

      21      they're not going to come to work drunk, as a rule.

      22             Those three instances, or four instances, and

      23      a couple upstate that we've had, over four and

      24      five years, not all the time, horrified us, because

      25      it made us ask:  What's wrong?  What happened here?


       1             What happened here that we need to fix?

       2             And the ignition interlocks was not the first

       3      solution we came up with.

       4             Our association took time, and I know the bus

       5      contractors and others in the industry took time, to

       6      look at:  What is it we do currently?

       7             And you should know that, currently, bus

       8      drivers are backgrounded.  It's a 24/7 process, in

       9      answer to the question.

      10             If they do something in their personal lives

      11      or in their commercial-driver's lives, it shows up

      12      for them.  It shows up for us as employers, to know

      13      someone got ticketed for speeding, got ticketed for

      14      drunk driving.  We know all those things, and action

      15      can be taken against them because of that.

      16             It's not a, one time, it never happens again.

      17             Their physical:

      18             They're given physical tests every two years.

      19             And according to CD regulation, every year,

      20      in fact, they go through a physical -- "operate"

      21      medical physical, they have to undergo.

      22             They are random tested.

      23             And we can discuss that further, and later in

      24      the testimony, but, they are given -- subject to

      25      random tests, by federal Motor Carrier Safety Act,


       1      administration regulations.  Those are implemented

       2      by supervisors and transportation operators across

       3      the state.

       4             They are subject to daily observation by

       5      their supervisory staff, so that a manager, or

       6      dispatcher, a fleet manager, who's operating that

       7      bus operation, observes them, hands them the keys,

       8      talks to them, the practices, to see:  Are you

       9      observing something that gives you reasonable cause

      10      to think they shouldn't be driving the bus?

      11             It's a technique that we go through.

      12             And those drivers, as I said, are subject to

      13      24/7 monitoring by law enforcement and DMV.

      14             We think, overall, the system has worked

      15      well.

      16             The nightmares and horrors that you just saw

      17      in those pictures, and what we went through for

      18      those children and the families involved in those,

      19      are exceptions, significant exceptions, to the rule.

      20             But we had asked ourselves:  Are there ways

      21      that the system particularly doesn't work?

      22             In our full statement, we give about

      23      twelve different recommendations.  I want to focus

      24      on just three of those right now.

      25             Currently, federal law does not require that


       1      CDLC licensed school bus drivers, those who are

       2      driving smaller buses, be subjected to those random

       3      drug and alcohol tests.

       4             We recommend, and would endorse, legislation

       5      that would require those drivers, meaning all bus

       6      drivers would be tested, thereby exceeding federal

       7      standards, and ensuring parents in New York that

       8      there's a greater number of bus drivers who are

       9      being tested each year.

      10             In a survey we did, we found that about

      11      65 percent of our members who responded already do

      12      that, but we think that's a standard that should be

      13      looked at in New York, and would require a legal

      14      change.

      15             Two:  Currently, operators must draw from

      16      10 percent of their -- according to FMCSA

      17      regulation, a minimum of 10 percent to conduct their

      18      random alcohol tests.

      19             We would support a requirement that they draw

      20      from 100 percent of their driver pool for testing.

      21      This would increase the number of tests that they're

      22      doing tenfold.

      23             It would also increase for the drivers, the

      24      risk, or the likelihood, that their name what be

      25      drawn at any given time, and would serve as a


       1      further deterrent to their alcohol use and drug use.

       2             In this particular case, we're talking

       3      particularly of alcohol use.

       4             Statewide, the approaches used for daily

       5      observation of school bus drivers varies, and is

       6      inconsistent in its application from district to

       7      district.

       8             Greater definition and standardization of

       9      such practices we think would be beneficial.

      10             We would support a requirement that school

      11      boards adopt clear and concise policies regarding

      12      the drug and alcohol observation processes, testing

      13      processes, and daily observation for school bus

      14      drivers in their district, including, especially for

      15      those who are allowed to park out the school buses

      16      assigned to them, where the bus actually goes home

      17      with the driver.

      18             And we think, while it goes on, creates a

      19      particularly vulnerable spot for some of our

      20      districts and operators.

      21             The results of drug and alcohol tests are

      22      employer-specific.  A potential employer is unaware

      23      of any record of positive drug or alcohol tests when

      24      a driver applicant appears before them for hiring.

      25             We would support a requirement that any


       1      positive drug or alcohol test results be recorded

       2      directly to the Department of Motor Vehicle by the

       3      testing agency, for the purpose of being recorded

       4      permanently on the driver's abstract, so there's no

       5      question, when the person shows up at a new

       6      employer, that they had a problem in the past with

       7      their drug tests.

       8             In order to ensure that the supervisory

       9      personnel and the school bus community are more

      10      adequately prepared to carry out their

      11      responsibilities in this area, we will work

      12      aggressively with school boards and superintendents

      13      to ensure their supervisory personnel across the

      14      board in school districts have frequent and adequate

      15      opportunities to receive FMCSA training and

      16      observation, and reasonable suspicion.

      17             As I said before, we do not support

      18      Senator Maziarz and Assemblyman Montesano, and also,

      19      there's -- Assemblyman Ryan has a similar bill, that

      20      would require mandatory installation of the ignition

      21      interlocks.

      22             And we spell out in more detail, but our

      23      issues go to:

      24             The cost of the devices, in the first

      25      instance, The operation and maintenance of those


       1      equipment.

       2             Reliability of the devices, and the potential

       3      for false-positives, and the risk of those devices

       4      rendering a school bus inoperable in a remote

       5      location, if there's a false-positive again, or it

       6      malfunctions, and you've got children aboard a bus,

       7      on a field trip or a sporting event, something

       8      happening where the bus can't be started.

       9             In addition, we add to that our concern

      10      about, the children have to watch the bus driver at

      11      the beginning of a run.  Because that bus is not

      12      running until the kids are on it and they're ready

      13      to go, or idling while it's in the state, that the

      14      children have to watch that happen.

      15             Some would think that gives the children a

      16      sense of reassurance.

      17             I'm not so sure of that; and neither are we,

      18      as an association.

      19             And we don't want the children to say:  Oh,

      20      wow, our bus driver may be drunk.

      21             Is that what we want to instill in them when

      22      they get on the bus?

      23             50,000 bus drivers do this job every day, and

      24      99.9999 percent of them are not drunk.  And we don't

      25      want to necessarily have the children have to


       1      suspect that the driver's drunk every time they get

       2      on the bus.  It's a very negative signal to send.

       3             On the equipment, just a number, that we did

       4      some quick calculation:

       5             If you assume 50,000 bus drivers in the

       6      state, working 180 school days --

       7             And just the school days: to school, drop the

       8      kids off; go back, get back on the bus and go pick

       9      them up at the end of the day.

      10             -- you're talking between 50 and 70 million

      11      times a day -- or, times a year that device will

      12      have to be used.

      13             Wear and tear alone -- and I just throw that

      14      out there -- the wear and tear alone means that

      15      we're going to have issues with the devices on the

      16      bus.

      17             And I'm sure we'll hear from that industry

      18      about the devices, but that's a question we need to

      19      ask ourselves.

      20             Just the operation -- keeping the equipment,

      21      keeping the tubes, and the things that have to be

      22      blown into -- I think we have to ask ourselves the

      23      question:  Is that how we want to be operating the

      24      buses?

      25             There is a significant preventive system in


       1      place.  We've recommended some ways that that could

       2      be improved.

       3             Mechanically: That we can change laws, Change

       4      the requirements on districts, have school boards

       5      and parents more involved in that process, and make

       6      the system tighter than it is today.

       7             And, obviously, doing something, because

       8      we've not had -- I could name the four here, one

       9      upstate, and the one in Almond that we talked about,

      10      six years ago -- that are the pieces that have

      11      caught our attention, again, as the DA said, because

      12      they got caught.

      13             We'd like to think that that's not happening.

      14             That system is working.

      15             If we had more drunk school bus drivers,

      16      you'd hear more about it.

      17             It's not happening as frequently as you

      18      think.

      19             The onslaught of four in a short period of

      20      time here on Long Island, certainly got attention,

      21      and at a minimum, it should make us go back and ask

      22      these kinds of questions that we asked.

      23             A last thought that I would offer you is,

      24      we're starting next week with the State Education

      25      Department on a Safe Schools Task Force they've


       1      reinstated after the shootings at Newtown, and the

       2      shooting of a driver in Alabama.

       3             We're going to bring it, to that table, the

       4      notion that school buses are not included in SAVE

       5      legislation.

       6             A couple of you were here when that law was

       7      enacted back in 2000.  School buses and

       8      transportation facilities and bus stops are not

       9      included in that legislation.

      10             And we believe that there should be a

      11      comprehensive planning approach to school bus

      12      safety, the same way there is about the buildings.

      13             And in that discussion, we will raise:  How

      14      do we ensure the safety -- the safe conditions of a

      15      school bus driver who's going to board that bus?

      16             And, how do we approach that, and make it

      17      part of an overall school-safety plan? -- which

      18      we've never done before.

      19             So, again, one more piece we would add to the

      20      discussion, is that:  This conversation be part of

      21      the overall school-safety program; all of those

      22      steps, hopefully, avoiding the need to have ignition

      23      interlocks;

      24             And, fully understanding the emotions and

      25      sentiments of having parents who have had to see


       1      their kids' bus go hit a tree, or go into a

       2      building, is not something we want to see, but we

       3      think there are other alternatives between here and

       4      an interlock.

       5             And I thank you, on behalf of our president,

       6      and our association, and all of the school bus

       7      industry.

       8             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  I'm glad you mentioned

       9      him this time.

      10                  [Laughter.]

      11             PETER MANNELLA:  I owe you big time, Senator.

      12             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Assemblyman McDonough?

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Yes.

      14             Thank you, Peter, for your testimony.

      15             I had a couple of questions, based on what

      16      you have here.

      17             Number One:  The practice of daily

      18      observation you're talking about, is that somebody

      19      who would be at the school, or at the bus terminal

      20      when he picks up the bus in the morning?

      21             PETER MANNELLA:  Yeah --

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  By the way, does he

      23      pick up the bus in morning and keep it during the

      24      day, or does he keep it overnight as well?

      25             PETER MANNELLA:  There may be some variations


       1      to that, but, generally, the school bus driver picks

       2      up the bus at the school, or, if it's a contract

       3      operation, they're picking it up at their facility,

       4      their terminal, and they will speak to that.

       5             They pick it up, they get the keys.  Part of

       6      that process is, they, you know, say "Hello,"

       7      register, sign in, punch the clock, whatever the

       8      process is there.  And there's interaction with the

       9      head mechanic, or it might be with the head bus

      10      driver in some places.  Like, a fleet manager, or

      11      the transportation supervisor, may be involved.

      12             Depending on the level or depth of personnel,

      13      if it's a small district and they've got, you know,

      14      the one person in the garage, that's going to be

      15      less intensive than if you've got a staff of people

      16      who are specifically assigned to do that task.

      17             But it's generally done in the morning, and

      18      then they bring the bus back.

      19             Again, that's going to vary district to

      20      district, but your template is:  Bring the bus back

      21      after your morning runs.  It sits, waits, cleaned

      22      up, goes out for the next run.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  You're saying,

      24      preferably -- in your testimony, your recommendation

      25      was:  Preferably, prior to the commencement of each


       1      run.

       2             PETER MANNELLA:  Yeah.

       3             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  "Each run" being, the

       4      morning run, and then the afternoon run, so

       5      someone's going to have to be there to observe them?

       6             What would that observation include, besides

       7      just personal, visual conversation?

       8             PETER MANNELLA:  Conversation.  You can smell

       9      alcohol.  You can tell by the demeanor of the

      10      person.

      11             Again, Rich is trained in this more than I

      12      would be.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  What about

      14      breathalyzers; are they difficult to -- I know

      15      police officers can use breathalyzers at a scene,

      16      can't they?

      17             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  That's something they

      19      can do?

      20             PETER MANNELLA:  Yeah.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  What about

      22      breathalyzers?

      23             PETER MANNELLA:  Breathalyzers at that moment

      24      of observation?

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Yes.


       1             I mean -- you know, we know that .08 is the

       2      law, but some people can be observed to look like

       3      they're okay even if they're above that limit.

       4             And your observation includes just a

       5      conversation and a visual observance of the person,

       6      with no type of testing?

       7             PETER MANNELLA:  No testing.  No.

       8             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  No.

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay.

      10             PETER MANNELLA:  And Rich just said, if you

      11      have reasonable suspicion, anything they've done or

      12      said or behavior, you can send them for a drug test

      13      immediately.  And if that bears out, they wouldn't

      14      go out on the road.

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  And the random tests

      16      that you're talking about, the ones that, I guess,

      17      are more extensive, urinalysis and blood testing,

      18      and things like that, how often are they performed

      19      now, on an average?

      20             PETER MANNELLA:  Those are, FMCSA rules

      21      require a minimum of 10 percent of your fleet, so --

      22      of your drivers.

      23             So if you've got 100 drivers, over the course

      24      of the year, you need to do 10 tests.

      25             And our reaction to that was, we may be


       1      meeting those requirements, but that's not a very

       2      deep test.

       3             And we're recommending that we increase that,

       4      so, over course of year, you have to test at least

       5      100 times.

       6             If you've got 100 drivers, you should be

       7      doing 100 tests.

       8             And there's a cost attached to that, but

       9      that's putting each driver knowing that, at any

      10      point, they could be tested.  There would be an

      11      increased risk of them being tested.

      12             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay.  Getting back

      13      to the observation that you say, at the beginning of

      14      each run, who's conducting that?

      15             A school official, or somebody from the

      16      bus -- school bus company?

      17             PETER MANNELLA:  School official, or -- well,

      18      it's the employer.  The employer has the

      19      responsibility for that, in most cases --

      20             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  Carrier.

      21             PETER MANNELLA:  Carrier.  I'm sorry.

      22             The carrier does.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Pardon me?  The

      24      carrier?

      25             PETER MANNELLA:  The carrier does, whether


       1      it's a district or a contractor.

       2             I'm not sure whether some contract school

       3      relationships, if the school is involved in that,

       4      but at a minimum, you're looking at the carrier;

       5      meaning, the operator, or the school district -- the

       6      contractor for the school district, and an official

       7      from that organization observing the driver.

       8             Whether it's a manager, dispatcher, head bus

       9      driver, they pick the person, someone designated to

      10      do that, but they have to be trained.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Thank you.

      12             Am I correct in assuming, from what you say,

      13      that at every school, both morning -- or, at the

      14      yard in the morning, picking up the buses, and then

      15      at the schools, when they come back for the pickup

      16      during the day, that there's got to be a person at

      17      every school who will personally observe each of the

      18      drivers as they come in to pick up students, to take

      19      them home?

      20             PETER MANNELLA:  I would say the ideal world,

      21      yes.  I can't tell you that that happens 100 percent

      22      of the time.

      23             And that's where we raised the concern about

      24      the school district, at a minimum, should have a

      25      policy, saying, That's how we're doing to do it.


       1             But that also means committing to the cost.

       2             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  But it means -- but

       3      you're also saying, it becomes the school district's

       4      responsibility more so than the carrier?

       5             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes, again, in their

       6      relationship with the carrier.

       7             The carrier has the responsibility, under the

       8      federal law.

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay.  And on the --

      10      one final question:

      11             On the daily observation, if somebody is

      12      observed that they should not be behind the wheel,

      13      then that driver is replaced immediately, and

      14      there's someone there to take those students home?

      15             PETER MANNELLA:  That's the responsibility of

      16      the supervisor, correct.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay.

      18             Thank you very much.

      19             PETER MANNELLA:  They are required by law to

      20      do that.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Thank you.very much,

      22      Peter.

      23             Thank you.

      24             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Mr. Mannella, I

      25      just wanted to ask you a couple of questions, if I


       1      may.

       2             When we talk about these break observations,

       3      I mean, my experience have been, previously, sitting

       4      on a school board as the school board president, and

       5      we ran our own transportation department, so I know,

       6      when a school district operates its own

       7      transportation, it has more control over what goes

       8      on.

       9             But most of the school districts, especially

      10      here on Long Island, contract for bus services.  And

      11      I know, you know, throughout the state, and the city

      12      of New York, we have some of the largest school bus

      13      companies around.

      14             So I would ask, I know on many of the

      15      occasions, these school buses do not go back to the

      16      yard, especially the small ones.  The minibuses

      17      doesn't go back to the yards after their runs.

      18      They're in the -- they stay in the possession of

      19      driver, and the driver has his downtime in between

      20      the run.  And sometimes, when they go on field

      21      trips, they have that downtime and the driver has

      22      hours to kill.

      23             How do we address the observation after that

      24      downtime, that, the driver didn't have alcoholic

      25      beverage during their lunchtime, or their downtime


       1      on a field trip?

       2             PETER MANNELLA:  Couple of places I want to

       3      respond there.

       4             One, I don't believe -- I would say, it's not

       5      an issue specific to contract operations who have

       6      them out doing other things.  School districts

       7      across the state have bus drivers who are out doing

       8      field trips, running the BOCES, and they will not go

       9      back.

      10             So let's not make that a "contractor versus

      11      district" difference.

      12             The question of them not coming back applies

      13      for field trips, and BOCES, and employment-type

      14      runs, as well as, some districts, I know upstate a

      15      lot, will keep the buses overnight with the bus

      16      driver.

      17             We have found that particularly problematic.

      18             As an organization, we have not recommended a

      19      statutory ban of that happening, but we have raised

      20      for our members that you're putting yourself at

      21      significant risk.

      22             I know you've got a representative from the

      23      school boards here, and we've talked to counsel at

      24      school boards about, What liability-insurance risk

      25      does that present to an operator, whether it's


       1      school or contractor, if a bus driver has the bus

       2      home?

       3             And if you're looking at things that happened

       4      in Boston, and other places like that, what happens

       5      to a vehicle if somebody tampers with it?

       6             So, to me, and us, it raises lots of issues.

       7      I'm not sure we have any easy responses to it.

       8             So I put that out there, that we do not have

       9      an easy response.

      10             It is happening.  Bus drivers are out on

      11      field trips, and they stop and have lunch somewhere,

      12      before they go to their next trip, and we're not

      13      seeing them again.

      14             I can't tell you we have an easy answer to

      15      that.

      16             And maybe some of the folks behind us will,

      17      or maybe Rich has one, but there's not an easy

      18      answer to, What happens when that bus isn't coming

      19      back to garage?

      20             You sent them out, you've done your due

      21      diligence to do the observation of them before you

      22      handed them the keys.  And then there's some level

      23      of trust that they're not going to betray that trust

      24      when they're out on the read.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Well, that's the


       1      point that I'm trying to make.

       2             I heard your testimony, and, you know, you

       3      sound convincing that these people are monitored

       4      during the course of a day, when, in reality,

       5      they're really not monitored through the course of a

       6      day.

       7             They may pass muster at 6:30 in the morning,

       8      when they're rolling the bus out, and then after

       9      that, really, nobody sees them.  You know, there's

      10      no monitoring.

      11             So, my next thing would be, you talked --

      12             PETER MANNELLA:  And just -- Assemblyman,

      13      there are also -- they're also not -- there's law

      14      and regulation that say that they should not have

      15      engaged in any drinking four hours prior to their

      16      service.

      17             It's not a preventive piece, but were

      18      something to happen and we find that they've done

      19      that, they just cost themselves their jobs.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Right.  And --

      21             PETER MANNELLA:  It's not just, you get a

      22      slap on the wrist and a ticket, and you're done.

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  And that's

      24      understandable, but we're trying to prevent for the

      25      ones that you don't catch.


       1             We understand what happens, and we know your

       2      industry is very severe when they have an employee

       3      who strays from what the rules are.

       4             But we're trying to prevent it from the one,

       5      that he does this, or she does this, and gets into

       6      the bus.

       7             My other thing is the 24/7 background, you

       8      indicated.

       9             Could you tell me what that's about,

      10      "24/7 background"?

      11             PETER MANNELLA:  And I may lean on Rich more

      12      on the details there, but, generally, a person who

      13      is a commercial driver/school bus driver, once they

      14      sign on for that, anything that they do on the road,

      15      any traffic violations, or other violations -- yeah,

      16      criminal violations, are flagged in the system.

      17             DCJS prompts a note to DMV and to the

      18      operators, that we know such-and-such got picked up

      19      for, you know, prostitution.

      20             Pick the crime.

      21             There are a list of crimes in Section 509-cc

      22      of the Vehicle and Traffic Law, for which a person,

      23      once convicted, cannot drive a bus.

      24             So those are a particular flag for, they just

      25      got convicted of that.


       1             I'm not sure it's an arrest.  It's a

       2      conviction.

       3             It's a conviction of a crime, that they

       4      cannot any longer drive a bus if they've done those

       5      things.

       6             So -- but that's constant.

       7             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  And just let me ask

       8      you one last question, if I may.

       9             I know about the physical-agility tests they

      10      take.  You know, practical applications on the bus.

      11             But when we talk about the biannual medical,

      12      could you tell us what that consists of, or what the

      13      physicians are supposed to look for?  Or is it

      14      really a self-test of them filling out a form?

      15             PETER MANNELLA:  Did you see a subtle turn of

      16      the mic to the president?

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Yeah.

      18             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  When you go for a DOT

      19      test, you have your heart checked; your height,

      20      weight; your reaction time; your eyesight; your

      21      hearing.

      22             You know, they give you a good overall

      23      physical of -- you know, they don't take a urine --

      24      they take a urine test, just to make sure you don't

      25      have diabetes.  They're checking your hearing.


       1             It's -- and blood pressure.  There are

       2      blood-pressure limits, over which, you have to have

       3      an additional follow-up check.

       4             And, it's not every two years.  Under SED

       5      regulations, we have to have a physical every year.

       6             Now, DMV and DOT require it every two years,

       7      but with the SED requirement, it's an annual

       8      requirement.

       9             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  But there's nothing

      10      in that physical, like, when they take the urine

      11      test, that they're not screening for drugs, and

      12      there's no blood test?  Am I correct?

      13             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  There are no blood tests,

      14      and they're not screening for drugs.

      15             The drug and alcohol fall under the federal

      16      requirements.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  All right.

      18             Thank you, Senator.

      19             PETER MANNELLA:  That is all federal, which

      20      the state could exceed.  We can open that

      21      discussion.

      22             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  This is the follow-up:

      23      You were asking, who else would see the people once

      24      they come back from the field trip?

      25             Many operations, they have what we call


       1      "road supervisors," which are out there at the

       2      schools when they're picking up children, or, out

       3      driving around, checking on their buses.

       4             So, they would also pick up whether the

       5      driver is doing anything wrong.

       6             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Thank you, Senator.

       7             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Yeah, let me just ask you

       8      a few questions, based on some questions that

       9      Senator Marcellino had asked, but you also mentioned

      10      509-cc of the VTL law, which classifies certain

      11      disqualifications:  Permanent disqualifications;

      12      five-years' disqualification; one-year

      13      disqualification.

      14             If somebody's convicted of drunk driving

      15      right now, with a license to operate a school bus,

      16      it's a five-year disqualification.

      17             Would you favor permanent disqualification?

      18             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes.

      19             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  Yes.

      20             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay, thank you.

      21             Senator Marcellino brought up an issue

      22      before:  Commercial BAC, the legal limit is now .04.

      23             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  .04, and 4 hours after

      24      the driver is reported.

      25             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Would you favor zero


       1      tolerance?

       2             RICHARD GALLAGHER:  "Zero tolerance," define?

       3             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Zero BAC.

       4             PETER MANNELLA:  Zero?

       5             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Right.

       6             PETER MANNELLA:  The parent in me says,

       7      absolutely.

       8             I think the answer would be yes.

       9             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You know --

      10             PETER MANNELLA:  I mean, it's the same, you

      11      don't want someone on a school bus who's been

      12      drinking.

      13             And it's is a tough -- it's a tough -- if

      14      they've have been out -- you know, they had a

      15      barbecue with the family on Sunday, and it shows up,

      16      but, I think we have to tighten the screen, and make

      17      this clear, "We're transporting our kids."

      18             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Exactly, and that's why I

      19      asked you the question.

      20             I appreciate your testimony, because we're

      21      looking at this with many different eyes open to

      22      certain pieces of legislation.

      23             There's legislation pending in the Senate,

      24      there's legislation pending in the Assembly, that is

      25      different in both houses.


       1             There's an epidemic -- there's a problem in

       2      New York State with drunk driving.  We know that.

       3             I offered .04, many, many -- .08, many, many

       4      years ago, and I truly believed then, there would be

       5      a significant reduction in arrests, convictions, and

       6      fatalities in the state.

       7             And it's kind of -- for vehicles, it's kind

       8      of stayed the same, where more than 50,000 people,

       9      every single year, are arrested.  The level of

      10      crashes seems to be steadily increasing.  Fatalities

      11      seem to be at a level where it just seems constant,

      12      on an annual basis.

      13             So, you know, we do everything that we can.

      14             Senator Dilan, when the Chair of

      15      Transportation, we worked closely together for

      16      Leandra's Law, something I truly believe in.

      17             There's an unintended loophole there, and

      18      we're trying to close that now, and strengthen that.

      19             And we're all appalled, when we read, and it

      20      almost seems like daily in this state, when a parent

      21      is arrested with a child in the car.

      22             We're appalled at that.  We're, like, How

      23      could they be, you know, so irresponsible, that they

      24      do something like that?

      25             Many have problems, and we know that.


       1             And we hope that, when they get arrested, as

       2      part of their conviction, obviously, they get help.

       3             It is appalling when -- and shocking, and I'm

       4      sure to you as well --

       5             And, again, I appreciate the recommendations,

       6      going forward, to strengthen transportation laws

       7      here in the state.

       8             -- but when one of your bus drivers, whether

       9      they're yours or not, throughout the state, gets

      10      arrested, and they're drunk, and they're driving --

      11             And you heard Miss Escudero, and her son,

      12      Christian, and what they had gone through.

      13             -- we're trying to be proactive.

      14             And we don't want to be reactive, to the

      15      sense that, when there's, God forbid, a tragedy,

      16      when there's a fatality, as a result of a crash.

      17             So, I'm not really asking for a response,

      18      but, in listening to you about, you know,

      19      50,000 individuals drive a bus every single day, I

      20      almost get the sense that you may feel it's

      21      offensive for them to have to blow into an ignition

      22      interlock system.

      23             Because, on my end, as the head of

      24      Transportation, and as a parent of three children as

      25      well, I say, What's the big deal?


       1             You know, What's the big deal?

       2             Because, someday, every bus will have -- be

       3      manufactured with it, because some manufacturer is

       4      going to do it on their own.

       5             You know that.

       6             Every day, someday in our lifetime, and,

       7      again, maybe not in our lifetime, a car will be

       8      manufactured with this device.

       9             And, you know, it may lower insurance costs,

      10      it may be such a good thing.

      11             But the bottom line is, it will save lives.

      12      It will prevent that individual from getting in that

      13      car, if they have entry detection of alcohol.

      14             So I think it's something that your

      15      association should take a serious second look at, as

      16      we proceed with this issue, because it's an

      17      important issue.

      18             And the last thing you want, and the last

      19      thing we want as legislators, and as parents, and

      20      residents of the state, is to have to deal with the

      21      issue of fatalities because of a drunk bus driver.

      22             You know, we deal with it every single day on

      23      the roads with individuals who drive cars.

      24             And, Peter, I have to tell you, we do

      25      everything we can, on an ongoing basis, members of


       1      this panel, and other members in the Legislature, in

       2      both houses, to continually strengthen the

       3      anti-drunk-driving laws in this state.

       4             And, you know, we're -- it's unfortunate

       5      we're here today, looking at commercial, looking at

       6      school bus drivers as well.

       7             So, again, I thank you for your testimony.

       8             PETER MANNELLA:  You didn't ask for an

       9      answer, and I spent the whole trip down here, hoping

      10      you wouldn't ask that question.

      11             And you didn't ask the question, but I want

      12      to respond this way:  We were horrified.

      13             I learned -- and I don't drive a bus, for

      14      which you should all be fortunate -- thankful, but

      15      what I've learned in this industry, is that when

      16      something happens that involves a child on a bus,

      17      the industry feels it all the way through.

      18             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Right.

      19             PETER MANNELLA:  There's an accident, a child

      20      gets hurt, a child gets left on a bus -- all those

      21      things that happen, that are rare, but, you'll note,

      22      it hits the press.

      23             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Right.

      24             PETER MANNELLA:  And I did point to the

      25      50,000 people who drive buses.


       1             To me, they're are heroes.

       2             They get up every day, on a part-time basis,

       3      and they go to work, and they take our kids to

       4      school.  And they do a magnificent job.

       5             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  The most precious cargo

       6      is transported every single day in this state.

       7             PETER MANNELLA:  Every day.

       8             And it's miraculous to me how we do it.

       9             So our institutional reaction, and that's

      10      what you have first -- no.

      11             The first reaction was, What the heck?

      12             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Right.

      13             PETER MANNELLA:  I mean, we had three,

      14      back-to-back.

      15             Rich and I were at a national conference, and

      16      we got a call, "There's been another DWI on

      17      Long Island."

      18             And your heart sinks, because these people

      19      work hard, tirelessly, every day.

      20             You've been on a school board.  You know how

      21      the transportation community works: early morning,

      22      late night, to get the kids to school.

      23             So when something like that happens, your

      24      heart sinks, and then you step back, and say:  Okay,

      25      now what?


       1             And we asked ourselves some of the questions.

       2             And our first instinct is, to try to avoid

       3      the ignition interlock.

       4             Again, not because it's offensive, but we

       5      think there's other ways to get at the problem.

       6             Will it -- you know, two years from now, we

       7      may have a different conversation.

       8             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Right.

       9             PETER MANNELLA:  Maybe.

      10             If we have another DWI, I'll go hide, because

      11      it's one of those you just don't want.  And we all

      12      know how this works.

      13             If something happens, we're all going have

      14      another question, but, for now, Are there things we

      15      can do in current structure, to tighten it up,

      16      ratchet it down?

      17             I think we've created more awareness out in

      18      the field.  We've got transportation professionals

      19      talking to their drivers differently about this

      20      problem than they did six months ago.

      21             Sometimes you sit back on your heels.

      22             I think the folks are off their heels now,

      23      and moving forward.

      24             So, thank you for your comments.

      25             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Just to follow up with


       1      some of the points that Senator Fuschillo mentioned,

       2      especially with respect to, ultimately, a company

       3      will purchase, or will produce, a vehicle that is --

       4      that has built-in devices.

       5             You see the ads on TV for cars now:  The car

       6      stops itself.  The car knows when you're in danger.

       7      The car pulls up to a -- and prevents you from

       8      hitting that little girl with the volleyball that

       9      just rolled out in front of it.

      10             I mean, the cars are thinking faster than we

      11      think, and the manufacturing of these vehicles is

      12      coming on, because people want to be safe in their

      13      cars.

      14             What's driving it?  In my opinion, is the

      15      insurance companies, who don't want to keep paying

      16      out on the claims.

      17             And I would gather that that's going to

      18      increase the creation, or speed up the creation, of

      19      a vehicle that is supersafe, that has the devices

      20      already built into it, either handgrips, or test

      21      your sweat, or whatever it is.

      22             I don't want to forget drugs because they may

      23      not be testable in the same way, because the impact

      24      is there.

      25             I used to run day camp with Federated Wives,


       1      out of Brooklyn, and we had a policy.  This goes

       2      back a number of years.

       3             But we had a policy:  The drivers couldn't

       4      drink, clearly.  They couldn't have lunch in a place

       5      that served alcohol.  Absolutely forbidden.

       6             If we found someone -- and we checked -- if

       7      we found someone walking out of a bar, whether they

       8      had a drink or not, maybe they just went in for a

       9      sandwich, they were gone.  We didn't have them back.

      10      We would not let them drive our kids anymore.

      11             Are you aware of any standing policies on

      12      school boards, and other companies that use your

      13      buses that -- are there similar policies out there?

      14             PETER MANNELLA:  I couldn't attest

      15      specifically, but I would -- my answer would be, I'm

      16      sure there are.

      17             And I think you may have some comments from

      18      some of the contractors behind us, from the

      19      school-board representatives here.

      20             I can't answer that, Senator Marcellino.

      21             It's a question I'll ask when I leave here,

      22      though.

      23             I think it's important that we have that

      24      conversation.  Yeah, zero tolerance.

      25             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  I do believe --


       1             PETER MANNELLA:  And they can't -- Rich

       2      pointed out, that if someone's observed drinking

       3      within four hours of their tour, they can't get

       4      behind the bus.

       5             That's a role of the supervisor.

       6             And what you just spelled out, if Rich sees

       7      one of the drivers for his district leaving the bar

       8      after lunch, they're not coming -- they're not going

       9      to come on the bus and turn it on.

      10             That's his responsibility.

      11             If he doesn't know it, it's a different

      12      story.  But, how we catch that, how we apprehend

      13      that, is the question.  It's hard to do.

      14             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  So the companies that

      15      are involved in your association, that work with

      16      you, they would -- they have policies, internal

      17      policies, that mandate their drivers behave in

      18      certain ways?

      19             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes.

      20             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  And this is a

      21      requirement of your association, or what?

      22             PETER MANNELLA:  It's not a requirement.

      23             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  It's just a voluntary

      24      type of thing that they do, because they know it's

      25      the smart thing to do?


       1             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes.

       2             And I think the better companies, and the

       3      better-managed school districts, are doing those

       4      kind of things.  They see these things coming

       5      forward.

       6             And, again, I think you'll hear some of that

       7      the rest -- over the course of day.

       8             But they're taking the proactive step, as

       9      opposed to waiting for something to happen.

      10             And that's very important.

      11             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Someone mentioned

      12      before, the cost of one of these devices.

      13             What is the cost of one of these devices?

      14             PETER MANNELLA:  I've read different costs.

      15             I would leave it to someone else to tell you

      16      that, but I've been looking at, I think they're

      17      $100 installation.  And then there's a monthly fee

      18      on one of the -- one or two of the companies that I

      19      looked at, 50 to 60 dollars a month.

      20             Again, I would have to bid that out.  I don't

      21      know.

      22             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  You mean the maintenance

      23      charges?

      24             PETER MANNELLA:  Yes.

      25             Yes, the monthly fees, yes.


       1             Again, I think you're going to hear from

       2      vendors on that, and I would lean to them for those

       3      numbers.  I'm not prepared to answer that.

       4             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Okay.

       5             All right, that's it.

       6             Lee?

       7             SENATOR ZELDIN:  I listened to the comments

       8      Senator Marcellino's making.  You bring up a great

       9      point, with regards to drug use.

      10             And I was just thinking, you know, if you had

      11      someone come up hot for marijuana, or cocaine, you

      12      know, we're not going to give a urinalysis to every

      13      driver once a week.

      14             We have a couple of drivers, you know,

      15      punching a couple of kids on a bus, that's terrible,

      16      you know, but we're not going to build a cage around

      17      where the driver drives, to make sure that they

      18      don't have any physical contact with their kids.

      19             And I just -- as I hear the testimony today,

      20      I'm just very inclined to say that the current

      21      proposal is just a little bit too broad.

      22             But the example, with regards to the drugs,

      23      is just a -- it's a great point, and that might

      24      actually be more prevailing of a problem than

      25      alcohol.


       1             I mean, I don't know.  You're -- I defer to

       2      the experts to educate us, but, this doesn't even

       3      deal with the drug problem, and some of other

       4      problems that might be of issue.

       5             But, I appreciate you being here as well.

       6             PETER MANNELLA:  Thank you.

       7             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Senator Fuschillo is

       8      occupied out there, but, I have no more questions.

       9             Anybody else?

      10             We're finished, then.

      11             Thank you, Peter, and, thank you, Rich, for

      12      your testimony.

      13             Perhaps we can take a -- do you want to wait

      14      for Chuck?  It's up to you.

      15             Okay.

      16             So, Susan Bergtraum, vice president, and

      17      Area 11 director, New York State School Boards

      18      Association.

      19             SUSAN BERGTRAUM:  Good morning.

      20             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Good morning.

      21             SUSAN BERGTRAUM:  We'll say hello to

      22      Senator Fuschillo in his absence, but, we know he's

      23      here.

      24             Senator Marcellino, we'll say hello to you;

      25      Senator Zeldin, Senator Dilan,


       1      Assemblyman Montesano, and Assemblyman McDonough.

       2             I thank you, first of all, for hearing our

       3      testimony.

       4             And I'm so conflicted about the issues that

       5      come before all of us, because we're always in that

       6      "Sophie's Choice."  We're always in, there's a

       7      reason to, there's a reason not to.

       8             So, as we speak about this, and as questions

       9      are asked, I'm already -- I see it from both sides.

      10             However, speaking here as a representative

      11      from New York School Boards Association, and for

      12      districts across the state, we have real problems,

      13      which I will go into as I start.

      14             The New York State School Boards Association,

      15      (NYSSBA) -- so when I say "NYSSBA," I'm referring to

      16      us -- appreciates the Senate Transportation

      17      Committee's concern for people's safety and

      18      transportation, and for all of our children

      19      throughout the state.

      20             On behalf of the 650 member school districts

      21      that comprise NYSSBA, we offer the following

      22      perspective:

      23             The safety of our children is of paramount

      24      importance.

      25             The establishment of safe learning


       1      environments, including transportation to and from

       2      schools, is critical to students' well-being and

       3      academic achievements.

       4             The additional costs of

       5      ignition-interlock-device mandates on all school

       6      buses, however, is of particular concern in this

       7      current fiscal environment.  And it's a choice we

       8      don't have to make, but it's a choice and priorities

       9      that we have to look at.

      10             When it comes to students' safety, cost alone

      11      is not the preeminent issue, but it is of concern to

      12      schools that strive to incorporate the most

      13      effective safety measures while operating within

      14      limited resources.

      15             School districts in New York State have

      16      endured restricted budgets over the previous

      17      four years.  State school aid is still not at the

      18      level of the 2008-2009 levels, and despite

      19      significant restorations, which we do appreciate and

      20      do acknowledge in the recently passed budget, the

      21      gap-elimination adjustment remains at $1.6 billion.

      22             School boards have to make difficult choices

      23      in developing their budgets, utilizing reduced State

      24      aid, and tax caps on local tax levies.

      25             Decisions on cutting instructional programs,


       1      and properly maintaining safe facilities and

       2      grounds, among other considerations, vie for the

       3      same restricted funds.

       4             The cost effectiveness of each expenditure

       5      must therefore be examined in relation to

       6      alternative approaches and competing demands.

       7             Once, again, that's all "Sophie's Choice."

       8             Proven policies and practices already exist

       9      regarding the management and supervision of school

      10      bus drivers.  They have demonstrated their

      11      cost-effectiveness.

      12             The best practice is utilized and constantly

      13      implemented, as we strive to continually improve the

      14      quality and safety of student transportation,

      15      exists.

      16             These measures, NYSSBA believes, are the most

      17      effective way to maintain and improve our current

      18      system.

      19             These systems, protocols, training, and

      20      supervision have, thankfully, resulted in extremely

      21      low rates of alcohol and drug abuse among bus

      22      drivers.

      23             And, Senator Marcellino did ask for best

      24      practices, which I think you've heard before, and we

      25      will give as well.


       1             So, given cuts to educational programs, the

       2      need to install new safety equipment in schools, in

       3      the light of Newtown, Connecticut, in that incident,

       4      as well as newly required testing and standards

       5      implementation, have school districts pleading for

       6      no new unfunded mandates, and a request for

       7      management flexibility needed to spend money in the

       8      most efficient manner.

       9             Local needs and capabilities are best

      10      determined and addressed through the local

      11      decision-making process, rather than one size fits

      12      all, a mandate -- and mandates from the state and

      13      federal government.

      14             As a result, a State legislative effort to

      15      pay for the costs of installing ignition

      16      interlocking devices on buses would be welcomed

      17      wholeheartedly.  That would not be an unfunded

      18      mandate.

      19             However, while a requirement that all buses

      20      have such devices would impose an additional burden

      21      that would jeopardize other, and perhaps more

      22      warranted safety measures, increased student and

      23      staff safety is an area that school boards have, of

      24      course, traditionally supported.

      25             We've supported anti-bullying, and concussion


       1      prevention and concussion treatments, to name a

       2      recent few.

       3             The benefits and uniform availability of

       4      these safety measures was so important, that any

       5      associated costs became a distant secondary

       6      consideration.

       7             The well-being of the student is of prime

       8      importance.  It always has been, it always should,

       9      and will be.

      10             The subject of this hearing, centered as it

      11      is, on student-transportation safety, is presented

      12      in light of a body of currently existing expertise

      13      and capabilities; however, that belie the imposition

      14      of an ignition interlock device in all school buses

      15      as a pressing safety need.

      16             No system is completely fail-safe.  Equipment

      17      alone cannot replace proper supervision, training,

      18      and recruitment of school bus drivers.

      19             The best and most effective methods of

      20      ensuring that an impaired driver does not get behind

      21      wheel, is the implementation of proper personnel

      22      management, and adherence to and compliance with

      23      current state and federal regulations.

      24             Reliance on equipment may give some a false

      25      sense of security.


       1             Further, the interlock equipment cannot be

       2      guaranteed to work, and a malfunction would deprive

       3      the school district transportation system of a bus,

       4      even though the driver's condition is not at issue.

       5             There is no substitution for daily human

       6      supervision, that is required by current regulation,

       7      to observe any behaviors reasonably deduced as

       8      influenced by alcohol and drugs.

       9             School-transportation managers are required

      10      to be trained in driver observation, as well as drug

      11      and alcohol testing procedures.

      12             As in a wide array of student issues, a very

      13      few deplorable incidents often lead to a

      14      far-reaching, perhaps overreaching, albeit sincere,

      15      legislative response.

      16             In recent years, the State wisely refrained

      17      from imposing a mandated fire-suppression system on

      18      every school bus, following a high-profile bus fire.

      19             History has shown that such a response would

      20      have been expensive and a superfluous action.  There

      21      have been no injuries sustained on subsequent school

      22      bus fires.

      23             Anomalies make for laws, particularly when

      24      their cost of implementation directly competes with

      25      other pressing safety needs.


       1             Consider the current state and federal

       2      requirements governing school bus drivers and the

       3      use of drugs and alcohol, which is substantial.

       4             In accordance with federal and state law, a

       5      school bus driver must not drive a school bus if he

       6      or she uses or is under the influence of alcohol or

       7      a controlled substance within six hours or less

       8      before duty.

       9             And you've got this in the testimony, with

      10      all the citations.  And I am not the legal expert on

      11      this, so I am giving you what was given to me:

      12             They may not consume a drug or alcohol on

      13      duty;

      14             They may not possess alcohol or a controlled

      15      substance while on duty.

      16             Now, I have a citation that says:  Has an

      17      alcohol concentration of .02.

      18             And the citation is in the testimony, so if

      19      that's wrong, I apologize, because I'm hearing "04."

      20             "02" would be better, and "01" would be

      21      better than that.

      22             So, I'm not -- this is not an argument among

      23      and between friends.  This is a discussion of how

      24      we're using our resources, where they would best be

      25      made, what other competing issues come before school


       1      boards all the time.

       2             So, to continue:

       3             They can't test positive for a controlled

       4      substance;

       5             Or has -- or they have adulterated or

       6      substituted a test specimen with controlled

       7      substances, refuses to take required alcohol and

       8      controlled substance tests.

       9             We must also engage in random alcohol and

      10      drug testing.

      11             And, you've got that also in the testimony,

      12      so I think that I will go on, so that I don't take

      13      that much more time.

      14             Our recommendations:

      15             Number one:  More vigilant adherence to the

      16      policies and required practices that are already on

      17      the books.

      18             Encouragement and support for the

      19      transference of best practices and options that

      20      school districts could employ would be helpful in

      21      making the current framework better.  Different size

      22      school districts and different geographical

      23      consideration among urban, suburban, and rural

      24      districts might benefit from the policies and

      25      practices of like districts.


       1             Again, a one-size-fits-all singular solution,

       2      such as a uniform ignition interlocking device,

       3      could be counterproductive.

       4             For those districts that may find an ignition

       5      interlocking device beneficial for at least part of

       6      their fleet, this equipment should be recognized as

       7      allowable expense under the State-aid ratio.

       8             This would allow a special circumstances to

       9      be recognized, or tried as a demonstration program,

      10      without a statewide mandate.

      11             And referring back to what you were

      12      discussing before with Peter, would be, on a field

      13      trip, for instance, you know, a school district that

      14      said, We do a lot of them, or, We have -- the bus

      15      that they use for field trips, that school district

      16      might say, We want an interlocking device on that

      17      bus, because we don't have enough control over that

      18      bus driver while he's away from us.

      19             Just thoughts of ways that we can address

      20      this, because I don't think anybody here -- I know

      21      nobody here does not want to address this issue, and

      22      in the best way possible.

      23             And that's our problem:  What's the best way

      24      possible, and what are our priorities?

      25             Number three:  Remove labor disputes from


       1      school districts that may desire to implement

       2      practices in driver observations, and drug and

       3      alcohol testing that exceeds federal and state

       4      requirements.

       5             Also provide that a school district or a

       6      private contractor used by the district can remove

       7      from employment, without further cause, a school bus

       8      driver who tests positive on a drug and alcohol

       9      test.

      10             There was a recent case, where, because of

      11      imprecise contract language, a driver who tested

      12      positive for marijuana right after she did her run,

      13      both the hearing officer and the appeals court said:

      14      No, you can't fire her.

      15             She needed progressive discipline.

      16             And, so, you know, we see those kinds of

      17      problems, that we should also -- also be addressing.

      18      And we should [unintelligible].

      19             And you've got the citation there, also.

      20             Improve the effectiveness of the New York

      21      State Vehicle and Traffic Law, Section 509-e, that

      22      requires a school district to review at least once

      23      every 12 months the driving record of every driver.

      24             The section could be improved by the

      25      inclusion of the driver's DMV abstract of any


       1      positive drug or alcohol test results over the full

       2      course of their driving history.

       3             Having this information, even though it is

       4      not a conviction or may be far removed from the

       5      present, in one centralized location, will make the

       6      review more comprehensive and effective.

       7             Make the effective date of any new cost, if

       8      any, prospective, so that school districts are not

       9      forced to withdraw funding from planned programs and

      10      services to pay for a new requirement from an

      11      already pared-down local budget that has been

      12      approved by its public.

      13             So in conclusion:

      14             The recent incidents involving intoxicated

      15      school bus drivers cannot be tolerated.

      16             One occurrence, as we have said, is one too

      17      many.

      18             The goal of every school district, with

      19      respect to school bus drivers under the influence of

      20      drugs and/or alcohol, is the total elimination of

      21      such occurrences.

      22             NYSSBA recognizes the importance of continual

      23      quality improvement as this goal is pursued.

      24             NYSSBA further recognizes the importance of

      25      investing in efforts that increase effectiveness,


       1      and decrease the frequency of impaired school bus

       2      drivers.

       3             Prevention is the key element.

       4             The utilization of the current statutes and

       5      regulations, combined with well-trained supervision,

       6      and the implementation of the recommendations above,

       7      NYSSBA believes, are the most effective ways to

       8      proceed.

       9             We are grateful for your focus on this issue,

      10      and the opportunity to provide you with what we hope

      11      is a relevant perspective and a helpful alternative

      12      approach.

      13             Once again, I thank you for the opportunity

      14      to testify.

      15             Hope I can answer any questions you have.

      16             If I cannot, because I am not an expert in

      17      this field, I will be more than happy to carry your

      18      questions, and get you answers.

      19             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Susan, first of all,

      20      thank you very much for being here, and taking the

      21      time.

      22             And I appreciate your testimony, especially

      23      your recommendations.

      24             Your conclusion stated something that is why

      25      we're here:  Prevention is the key element.


       1             And that's really our goal, as we go forward

       2      with gathering the input of those who are testifying

       3      here today, and with the recommendations that have

       4      been given forth to the Committee.

       5             I have no questions.

       6             You were clear, concise, and I appreciate it.

       7             Thank you very much for being here.

       8             I don't know if anybody else does on the

       9      panel?

      10             No questions?

      11             Okay, thank you.

      12             SUSAN BERGTRAUM:  I thank you again.

      13             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Juanita Samuels,

      14      vice president of TWU, Local 252.

      15             Hi, Juanita.  Good morning.

      16             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Good morning.

      17             My name is Juanita Samuels, and I'm

      18      vice president of TWU, Local 252.

      19             We represent over 3500 hard-working men and

      20      women in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

      21             I thank you for the opportunity to address

      22      the Committee today.

      23             Please be assured, we respect your

      24      motivation, and share your concern for safety of our

      25      children.


       1             While we urge you to oppose Assembly

       2      Bill A837 and Senate Bill S1347, which mandates

       3      initiation [sic] interlock devices for school buses

       4      manufactured after July 1, 2015, authorizes school

       5      boards to determine the specifics of retrofitting

       6      school buses manufactured prior to such date,

       7      permits school boards to adopt policies requiring

       8      installation and use of such devices, provides State

       9      aid for expense incurred for such devices, we

      10      believe the State must, and should, take measures to

      11      eliminate the threat of impaired driving.

      12             The bills in question at today's hearing do

      13      not solve the problem of impaired driving.

      14             It treats good, hard-working drivers as

      15      criminals, forcing them to submit to a breathalyzer

      16      at the minimum of four times per day, often in front

      17      of children, and will cost the taxpayers of the

      18      state in excess of 60 million per year to maintain.

      19             The members of TWU, Local 252, encourage you

      20      to adopt the following rules to combat impaired

      21      driving:

      22             Increase random alcohol testing rates, from

      23      10 percent to 25 percent;

      24             Require all vehicles to park on company

      25      property at night.  Stop the take-home vans, where


       1      drivers can behave badly before work;

       2             Set a state minimum wage for bus drivers at

       3      the regional poverty-level state living wage;

       4             Fix the school bus CDL law to require all

       5      newly hired school bus drivers to have the

       6      S Endorsement not currently required for vans under

       7      10,000 pounds;

       8             Bring the New York State DOT PTSB transit

       9      regulations into the school bus industry;

      10             Include in the requirements of a

      11      safety-system plan that must be filled -- filed with

      12      the State, and is subject to review every

      13      three years;

      14             Add $25 to every bus registration, to fund a

      15      program, whereby the safety-system plan and the

      16      current New York State DMV driver files are audited

      17      once a year.

      18             There is much regulation that is supported by

      19      paperwork that is required to be kept on company

      20      property, but goes mostly unchecked, and can be

      21      easily fabricated.

      22             Thank you for your consideration, and I look

      23      forward to working with you to make these

      24      commonsense changes.



       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Juanita, thank you very

       2      much.  I appreciate your recommendations.

       3             Let me ask you a question that I had asked

       4      one of the previous speakers.

       5             Would you support a zero tolerance?

       6             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Yes.

       7             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And also a permanent

       8      disqualification for convicted drunk drivers?

       9             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Yes.

      10             I'm fortunate enough to work at one of our

      11      companies that we represent.

      12             They have zero tolerance.

      13             If you're caught; if you test positive for

      14      drugs or alcohol, it's automatic dismissal.  There's

      15      nothing we can do.

      16             You know, most of the drivers that drive are

      17      grandmothers, we're all parents.  You know, we

      18      don't -- we're not -- we're safety-conscious also,

      19      and we don't want anybody to get hurt.

      20             I mean, when you see, as a bus driver -- I

      21      was a bus driver for 17 years -- when you see

      22      somebody going through the house with a busload of

      23      kids, it affects you too.

      24             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  So somebody is not

      25      necessarily even convicted, but if somebody tests


       1      positive for drugs or alcohol, they're fired?

       2             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Automatically.

       3             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Gone?

       4             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Yep.

       5             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay.

       6             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Zero tolerance.

       7             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Lee?

       8             SENATOR ZELDIN:  I will just state that, you

       9      know, Juanita, I've had an opportunity to see you at

      10      a lot of different community events in my own

      11      district.

      12             And, you know, when I think of the example,

      13      bus driver that's out there in our community right

      14      now, and it's much to the credit of you and your

      15      members, again, I think of people like you.

      16             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Right.

      17             SENATOR ZELDIN:  And, you know, we're

      18      focusing in on, you know, those rare exceptions,

      19      doing the wrong thing, but, you know, I think of all

      20      of your involvement in my own community, I think of

      21      my daughter's bus drivers.

      22             And the fact is, we have a lot of great

      23      people working in this industry right now, across

      24      Long Island and New York State.

      25             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Right.


       1             And being a union member, I often see other

       2      bus companies, and when you see what they get away

       3      with, I'm like, What?  Where are you coming from?

       4             It's not -- it's different through different

       5      companies.

       6             SENATOR ZELDIN:  And I think that it's, you

       7      know --

       8             JUANITA SAMUELS:  It's scary.

       9             SENATOR ZELDIN:  -- I think it's an important

      10      point, that the culture within the business, within

      11      that busing company, the way that they have their

      12      own standards, and their own zero-tolerance policy,

      13      their own research and hiring practices, the

      14      leadership within the company, that's -- that's

      15      maybe most important here, is having the right

      16      culture within the company.

      17             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Yes, that's a big plus, and

      18      it reflects on the driver.

      19             When you have better owners and, contractors,

      20      I should say, you can tell -- you can clearly see a

      21      difference.

      22             And I've been -- this is my third term as

      23      vice president, and we visit around with other

      24      companies.

      25             All companies are not the same.  Some are at


       1      a different standard than others.

       2             SENATOR ZELDIN:  Thank you, Juanita.

       3             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Assemblyman Montesano?

       4             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Hi, yes, Ms. Samuels,

       5      I just have one question for you.

       6             In your Comment E, for the New York State

       7      DOT, to bring the PTSB transit regulations to the

       8      school bus industry, could you just tell me

       9      something about that PTSB regulation?

      10             I mean, are you familiar with what it is?

      11             JUANITA SAMUELS:  I'm not -- I don't want to

      12      give the wrong information, but I can get some

      13      information and get it submitted to you.

      14             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  If you would, please.

      15             Thank you.

      16             JUANITA SAMUELS:  I will.  Will do.

      17             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you, Juanita.

      18             JUANITA SAMUELS:  Okay.  Thank you.

      19             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  John Corrado, president

      20      of Suffolk Transportation Services.

      21             Good morning, John.

      22             PAUL MORI:  He's better looking.  He's

      23      younger.

      24             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And, Paul Mori, who is a

      25      board member of the New York State School Bus


       1      Contractors Association.

       2             Gentlemen, thank you very much for being

       3      here.

       4             JOHN J. CORRADO:  Thank you very much for

       5      having us.

       6             Thank you, Senator, and Senators and

       7      Assemblymen, for conducting this hearing.

       8             Before I begin my comments, I want to just

       9      make it clear that my comments represent my own

      10      company.

      11             Paul is here representing the School Bus

      12      Contractors Association, of which I am a member, and

      13      I sit on the board with him.

      14             And, thanks for letting me go first, Paul.

      15             My name is John J. Corrado.  I'm president of

      16      Suffolk Transportation, a family and school bus and

      17      transit bus company located in Bay Shore, New York.

      18             For purposes of abbreviation:

      19             My grandparents were bus drivers, they came

      20      to this country.

      21             My father was in that business, and then

      22      bought Suffolk Transportation in the early '70s.

      23             After a short career as a CPA, I joined my

      24      family business in 1988.

      25             New York State runs a very large school bus


       1      transportation system.

       2             There are approximately 50,000 vehicles

       3      moving 2.5 million children over 250 million miles

       4      of road.

       5             The approximate total cost of the system to

       6      the taxpayer is about $3 billion per year, of which

       7      more than half is -- on average, is supported by the

       8      State funding.

       9             Currently, New York State DOT has a robust

      10      program for vehicle inspection, spending one hour

      11      inspecting each vehicle twice a year.

      12             That's two hours of oversight per vehicle,

      13      per year.

      14             New York State inspectors either pass or fail

      15      a bus on this inspection.

      16             The pass rate is accumulated and publicly

      17      published for each operator at the end of each

      18      fiscal year.

      19             The inspection almost guarantees that every

      20      school bus is mechanically safe to transport

      21      children, and this system has served to improve the

      22      maintenance program at every carrier in the state,

      23      both private and district-run operations.

      24             However, there is no State inspection of a

      25      carrier safety practice.


       1             In fact, a bus company or school district in

       2      New York State, they are not required to have any

       3      creative safety practices, or even a safety manual.

       4             New York State DMV requires that each

       5      property maintain a driver file with documentation

       6      to support the requirements under 19-A.

       7             This documentation is reviewed for

       8      completeness periodically by DMV inspectors, but is

       9      simply a paper review.

      10             We're here today because the industry has

      11      failed the children of New York with several

      12      DUI arrests this school year alone.

      13             I am not here to compare my company to

      14      others.

      15             I would also add that most carriers

      16      throughout New York State are putting a very good

      17      effort forward on safety, but more can be done to

      18      protect our children.

      19             Over the years there's been great advancement

      20      in bus safety.

      21             New York State DOT vehicle inspections,

      22      BUSNET, DMV Article 19-A, drug testing, CDL, the

      23      physical-performance test, have all served to

      24      elevate the standards in our industry.

      25             Then, in 1996, Governor Pataki and the State


       1      Legislature passed the RFP Proposal Law, which, for

       2      the first time, allowed school districts to do a

       3      qualitative, as well as a quantitative, review of

       4      the bus service through the bid process.

       5             The RFP put the power of how tax dollars are

       6      spent back in the hands of the taxpayer and the

       7      district and the State.

       8             As a side note, in our effort to improve

       9      safety, Section 305 of the State Education Law

      10      should limit the use of a low bid to contracts that

      11      are under 1 million annually.

      12             I don't even know if we should set a dollar

      13      limit.

      14             We can go back to that further, but, the

      15      low-bid system is a race to the bottom.

      16             I would support any effort to improve school

      17      bus safety; however, the interlock system, in my

      18      opinion, is not the most cost -- the most effective

      19      way to achieve this goal.

      20             My concern, is that it will only serve to

      21      mask other operating-safety issues.

      22             There's also a major invested that simply

      23      leaves too many holes for bad behavior to fall

      24      through.

      25             There are several simple steps that the State


       1      can take to reduce the chances of having a

       2      school-district driver on the road in an impaired

       3      state.

       4             Others have spoken, or will speak, to some of

       5      the these detailed suggestions, including, no

       6      take-home vans, and increased random alcohol

       7      testing.

       8             However, I'd like to propose a more global

       9      solution that will serve to improve school bus

      10      safety on all levels.

      11             In New York State, if you are a

      12      public-transit provider, you must develop and file

      13      with the State, a System Safety Procedure Plan

      14      (SSPP).

      15             The New York State DOT Public Transportation

      16      Safety Board outlines what this plan is to cover.

      17             The PTSB reviews and approves this plan.

      18             Every two years, this plan must be updated

      19      and resubmitted for approval.

      20             The plan is subject to State audit, and is

      21      used by the PTSB as part of their independent

      22      accident investigation of a public-transit accident.

      23             Failure to have an approved plan could lead

      24      to revocation of a carrier's operating authority.

      25             The SSPP is there to protect the riding


       1      public, and the State employees' engineers to

       2      monitor these plans.

       3             I would like to suggest that this safety-plan

       4      model be modified and expanded into the school bus

       5      transportation system for both private operators and

       6      district-run fleets.

       7             Most companies have a good safety manual in

       8      place.  For these companies, it would not be a big

       9      effort to adopt the PTSB model.

      10             Monitoring would be done by the State-hired

      11      engineers.

      12             The cost of this program could be supported

      13      by a $50-per-year charge for a New York State cab

      14      card.

      15             Again, this cab card is a fee-collection

      16      system that is already in place for transit and

      17      charter companies.

      18             Non-compliant properties would be given time

      19      and guidance on how to improve their operation, or

      20      risk losing their operating authority.

      21             The objective would be, to set a state

      22      standard for school bus safety, with the goal of

      23      evaluating every carrier's safety levels.

      24             Senator, we're here today because you have

      25      sensed that something is wrong, and that our state


       1      school bus system has let you down.

       2             Let's work together to remove the uncertainty

       3      around the level of safety that our children receive

       4      in the state.

       5             We put the safety net in place for the

       6      public-transit rider, and the time is right for us

       7      to put this in place for the riding children.

       8             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Paul --

       9             John, let me ask you a quick question.

      10             How many vehicles do you have in your

      11      company?

      12             JOHN J. CORRADO:  About 1,000 vehicles.

      13             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You heard the previous

      14      testimony.

      15             If an individual has tested positive for

      16      drugs and alcohol, do you have the same policy, zero

      17      tolerance?

      18             JOHN J. CORRADO:  Yes.

      19             Juanita represents the drivers on our

      20      property.

      21             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay.

      22             Paul.

      23             PAUL MORI:  Thank you, Senator.

      24             Thank you to the whole Committee for allowing

      25      to us speak here.


       1             Oh, I'm usually loud enough.

       2             There we go.

       3             Good morning, and thank you for inviting the

       4      New York School Bus Contractors Association to speak

       5      at today's public hearing on the ignition interlock

       6      devices.

       7             My name is Paul Quinn Mori, and I'm a board

       8      member of the New York School Bus Contractors

       9      Association, and, a senior manager at

      10      Huntington Coach, where I've worked for 32 years.

      11             I'm here today representing New York School

      12      Bus Contractors Association.

      13             We have an organization of over 200 private

      14      pupil-transportation companies, with more than

      15      35,000 employees operating over 28,000 buses across

      16      the state.

      17             New York school bus contractors provide

      18      pupil-transportation services for well over

      19      a million children, which is just about a half of

      20      the 2.3 million children riding school buses.

      21             Given the focus of today's hearing, I believe

      22      it is important for me to highlight my experience as

      23      a school bus safety professional.

      24             In addition to being a school bus operator,

      25      or contractor, I am a State Education Department


       1      master instructor, DMV-certified 19-A examiner,

       2      defensive-driving instructor, and first responder.

       3             As I begin my remarks, it goes without

       4      saying, that providing our schoolchildren with the

       5      safest mode of transportation to and from school is

       6      our utmost priority.

       7             I could not help, but listening to

       8      Ms. Escudero speak, and looking at little Christian,

       9      something my wife, much -- far wiser than me, told

      10      me many years ago, "Picture your daughter in every

      11      school bus that you run."

      12             And I do that.

      13             And I could see the look in Senator Zeldin's

      14      face when he was talking about children on school

      15      buses, and how personal it is to folks like us.

      16             My child doesn't get to ride my own bus, but

      17      I want to make sure that whatever bus she rides is

      18      just as safe as mine.

      19             We take our responsibility seriously, and

      20      truly love what we do.

      21             I think you'll find that throughout the

      22      entire school bus industry.

      23             We are here today because of a very small

      24      number of irresponsible school bus drivers chose to

      25      put children in harm's way by operating a school bus


       1      while under the influence of alcohol.

       2             While we cannot dismiss the severity of this

       3      egregious behavior, we also must not dismiss the

       4      sensibility of ensuring our public-policy reaction

       5      is rational and judicious.

       6             New York State is the leader in school bus

       7      and school bus driver safety.

       8             I don't know if everybody realizes in this

       9      room, but we operate more buses than any other

      10      state.

      11             We're about two and a half times the size of

      12      California in school buses.

      13             There has never been a documented fatality in

      14      New York State concerning drugs or alcohol and the

      15      driver.

      16             We don't rest on that alone, and that's what

      17      we're here to talk about.

      18             School buses are, by far, the safest way for

      19      a child to get to and from school in New York.

      20      Statistically, almost 40 times safer than riding in

      21      a car.

      22             The U.S. Department of Transportation has

      23      documented the fact that school buses continue to be

      24      the safest mode of transportation in the country for

      25      transporting children to and from school and any


       1      activities.

       2             Nationwide, over the last ten years, there's

       3      been 37 documented cases of school bus drivers

       4      operating a bus under the influence of alcohol.

       5             While there has been, in the recent months,

       6      several high-profile incidents here in New York, it

       7      is important to look at them in the context of

       8      nearly half a million school bus drivers on the road

       9      each day, nationwide.

      10             While we believe any case of intoxicated bus

      11      drivers is unacceptable, overall, school districts

      12      and contractors are doing a phenomenal job at

      13      transporting those 2.3 million children to and from

      14      school.

      15             We present these safety statistics to

      16      illustrate that school buses continue to be the

      17      safest mode of transportation for schoolchildren in

      18      the country, and to illustrate why we believe that

      19      mandating ignition interlock devices on every school

      20      bus is clearly not a rational response to those

      21      isolated events.

      22             Some flaws to the ignition interlocks:

      23             As I turn to today's topic, it goes without

      24      saying, that there are a number of problems

      25      concerning -- surrounding the idea of mandating the


       1      installation of interlocks on school buses.

       2             Mandating ignition interlocks as a way to

       3      monitor innocent drivers would be unprecedented.

       4             Currently, interlock devices are only used

       5      after criminal conviction.

       6             This would be the first time an entire

       7      workforce would be required to prove sobriety before

       8      going on the road.

       9             The "guilty until proven innocent" approach

      10      is generally not the best way to motivate, recruit,

      11      or retain good school bus drivers.

      12             We are, after all, talking about school bus

      13      drivers, statistically, the safest and most

      14      conscientious drivers on the roads today.

      15             Mandating ignition interlocks would be like

      16      making every citizen in the state wear an ankle

      17      monitor regardless of guilt.

      18             There are serious concerns regarding the

      19      safety of, and logic behind, mandating the interlock

      20      systems.

      21             I would like to share with you just a few of

      22      those concerns.

      23             First, school buses would not start until the

      24      interlock device is engaged.

      25             It would have to be engaged, and reengaged,


       1      every time a school bus is started, and restarted.

       2             Strict idling laws in New York State means

       3      school bus drivers would constantly be blowing into

       4      the interlock system throughout the day, creating

       5      significant distraction for the driver.

       6             The device must be maintained and calibrated

       7      regularly for it to work consistently.

       8             Any false-positives or other problems with

       9      the device would lead to significant employee and

      10      transportation-management issues.

      11             Photographic and/or fingerprint data is

      12      required.

      13             This would be extremely problematic in the

      14      not so unusual situation where drivers use different

      15      buses during the day.

      16             To be effective, these devices also require

      17      activation from the driver while the vehicle is

      18      running.  While the vehicle will not stop moving

      19      during this process, warning lights and horns are

      20      usually activated.

      21             These things that could be warning -- could

      22      be alarming create major distractions to the driver,

      23      and, ultimately, be dangerous for students riding

      24      the bus.

      25             And make sure you don't rinse with Listerine


       1      before you drive your school bus, because this could

       2      trigger the interlock device.

       3             Any false-positives or device glitches could

       4      cause transportation-service delays for parents,

       5      schools, and, of course, the children.

       6             If the ignition interlock is not serviced

       7      within a predetermined schedule, the school bus will

       8      be rendered inoperable.  This alone would be a

       9      severe and expensive item to add for the service

      10      schedule each month.

      11             Finally, there's the cost:

      12             Installation, typically, between 100 to and

      13      200 dollars, with a monthly rental fee of somewhere

      14      between 75 and 100 dollars per device.

      15             And the cost -- adding the cost of regular

      16      maintenance, calibration, training, and additional

      17      staffing, the costs become astronomical.

      18             Extrapolate these costs over 50,000 school

      19      buses, and the increase in costs to school districts

      20      and taxpayers could be well over $100 million in the

      21      first year alone, with recurring costs to districts

      22      and taxpayers of $60 million a year.

      23             Smarter solutions:

      24             As champions of school bus safety, we believe

      25      there are better solutions that will make school


       1      buses even safer, and help prevent the rare incident

       2      of an intoxicated or impaired school bus driver.

       3             First, we believe in increasing and expanding

       4      random drug and alcohol testing for school bus

       5      drivers, taking the alcohol test rate of 10, to a

       6      minimum of 25 percent.

       7             An obvious flaw with the ignition locks is

       8      they only test for alcohol, and not other drugs.

       9             While many contractors already subject all of

      10      their drivers to random testing, under current law,

      11      drug and alcohol testing for school bus drivers only

      12      applies to certain license holders, and some drivers

      13      are actually excluded from the testing pool.

      14             We would like to see New York State require

      15      testing of all drivers of all school vehicles.

      16             This would include expanding the state's

      17      legal definition of a "school bus," to include all

      18      school vehicles, including nursery schools, daycare,

      19      and day camps, and Head Start programs.

      20             In addition, mechanics, driver-attendance

      21      monitors, and dispatchers should also be tested at

      22      the same rates as the other safety-sensitive

      23      employees.

      24             One of the most glaring school bus safety

      25      gaps in New York State law is a lack of requirement


       1      that drivers of school buses with 14 or fewer

       2      passengers are not subjected to drug and alcohol

       3      testing.

       4             The State could easily fix this problem.

       5             New York should follow the federal minimum of

       6      50 percent random drug testing; increase random

       7      alcohol testing to at least the 25 percent that we

       8      spoke of.

       9             Additional employee- and management-education

      10      programs should be implemented, along with

      11      increasing the training for supervisors in

      12      drug-and-alcohol-use recognition.

      13             There are also laws on the books that require

      14      direct observation of a school bus driver.

      15             This is -- Senator Fuschillo is well aware of

      16      509-cc.

      17             509 requires that.  And I think that's where

      18      we should be leaning towards.

      19             New York State Department of Motor Vehicles

      20      should keep a registry of drivers who have been

      21      disqualified from work due to failed, or refusing to

      22      take, drug or alcohol tests.

      23             In addition, expanding driver records to show

      24      drug or alcohol convictions.  Current driver

      25      abstracts only show alcohol violations for the past


       1      ten years.

       2             They were speaking earlier, New York State

       3      DMV policy is, showing three, plus the current year,

       4      except if there's an alcohol violation.

       5             They will show you an alcohol violation

       6      forever if there was an injury-producing crash, but,

       7      to mask something that's 11 years old, as an

       8      employer, I would want to know that, because I

       9      wouldn't hire that person.

      10             Expanding these lists would help in

      11      identifying potentially dangerous drivers before

      12      they are hired and hit the road.

      13             The New York State School Bus Contractors

      14      Association also favors increasing penalties for

      15      drivers convicted of operating a school bus under

      16      the influence.

      17             We realize that even one

      18      driving-while-intoxicated incident endangers all.

      19             It's -- though rare as it is, we still have

      20      to be rational and judicious in our approach to

      21      handling the problem.

      22             There are a number of smart improvements that

      23      can be made to our current laws to keep our school

      24      buses as safe as possible, all of which will be more

      25      effective than mandating expensive and untested


       1      ignition interlock devices.

       2             The New York School Bus Contractors

       3      Association remains committed to making sure

       4      New York schoolchildren are provided the safest,

       5      most reliable school transportation services in the

       6      country.

       7             We look forward to working with the

       8      Legislature, to make sure school bus travel remains

       9      the safest mode of transportation for a child going

      10      to and from school.

      11             Quick question -- I just had a couple of

      12      things.

      13             As the Senator knows, sometimes get into my

      14      nit-picky stuff.

      15             There is a zero-tolerance policy already on

      16      the books with the BTL.

      17             Article 19-A, it's a six-hour window.

      18             Federal Motor Carrier says, four hours.

      19             Article 19-A already says, six hours.

      20             I think that could easily be expanded to an

      21      eight-hour window.

      22             That would prevent someone going out the

      23      night before, and showing up for work at 6:00 in the

      24      morning.

      25             I think it would be more -- one of our ideas


       1      would take that to eight hours.

       2             Most companies already have the

       3      zero-tolerance policy in place:  You test positive,

       4      you lose your job.

       5             But, if someone comes to me, and fails --

       6             And we use direct observation.  We have

       7      several layers of supervisors, before a driver goes

       8      on the road.  And even our driver-attendance goes

       9      through that the same process.

      10             -- that, if we spot something, and they meet

      11      the guidelines of what's called "reasonable

      12      suspicion," it's mandated by FMCSA, Part 40, if you

      13      follow those procedures, you will prevent the driver

      14      from getting on the record.

      15             But if a person refuses a test, or tests and

      16      tests positive, of course, they have lost their job

      17      with me, there's no method in place now, where that

      18      information goes and gets stored in Motor Vehicles,

      19      so they don't go to another person's company or

      20      school district.

      21             You know, people say:  Paul, you're really

      22      tough and you're hard on people.

      23             This is a zero tolerance.

      24             I saw that beautiful young boy, Christian,

      25      sitting up here, and I just saw my daughter.


       1             And that's how I take it really seriously.

       2             The most -- the question I wanted to get

       3      thrown at me was, Assemblyman Montesano's question

       4      is a really good one:

       5             My particular operation -- now I'm talking

       6      for my own company, Huntington Coach -- my drivers,

       7      they see us sometimes, eight, ten times a day; in

       8      and out, in and out, in and out.

       9             They come, they sign in, we go through the

      10      whole process, over and over again.

      11             But what about a charter?

      12             The advantage of a charter is, there's

      13      usually adult supervision on that charter.  There's

      14      an adult with them.  They're not going and taking a

      15      group that doesn't -- you know, we're not taking

      16      young children.

      17             And that's how heinous I -- the crimes

      18      [unintelligible], where, you know, these children

      19      trusted these drivers, and these drivers failed

      20      them.

      21             And we're here so not to have that happen.

      22             And, of course, I will take any questions you

      23      have.




       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Well, John, thank you

       2      very much, and for both of your testimonies.  And I

       3      appreciate the recommendations.

       4             Senator Zeldin?

       5             SENATOR ZELDIN:  I appreciate that as well,

       6      that you came and offered up ideas, as prior

       7      speakers have.

       8             Before I depart, I just wanted to thank

       9      Chairman Fuschillo for doing this hearing today,

      10      which has been very informative for me.

      11             In working with Senator Fuschillo over the

      12      course of the last few years, he's really stood out

      13      amongst, you know, us 213 legislators up in Albany,

      14      for -- you know, for his sensitivity, his concern,

      15      his caring, for New York families, for his own

      16      constituents.

      17             And Melissa and Christian, you're very well

      18      served, as are my father and stepmother who live in

      19      the Senator's district.

      20             They're very lucky to have you, and just

      21      appreciate you doing this, again, with many

      22      different issues.

      23             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you, Lee.

      24             SENATOR ZELDIN:  We see it behind the scenes

      25      up in Albany, with the way that Senator Fuschillo


       1      cares about families.

       2             And I'd be remiss if I didn't offer up my

       3      thoughts.

       4             Thank you for your leadership.

       5             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Do you guys want to be

       6      alone?

       7                  [Laughter.]

       8             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much to

       9      the Number One Senator in my book from now on.

      10                  [Laughter.]

      11             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Assemblyman McDonough?

      12             Thank you, Lee.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Paul, you mentioned

      14      the fact that, under 14 passengers are not

      15      required --

      16             PAUL MORI:  No.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Do you have buses

      18      that have --

      19             Thank you.

      20             Do you have buses that --

      21             PAUL MORI:  Yes, but --

      22             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  -- but you do require

      23      the testing?

      24             PAUL MORI:  We require the testing, because

      25      we make all our drivers -- and Juanita, who spoke


       1      before, was direct on -- we require all our drivers

       2      to have CPS licenses which meet the federal

       3      standards, so they're in the drug-testing pool.

       4             But, my particular company, we drug test

       5      secretaries, office staff, and everything else, in a

       6      separate pool.

       7             You would have to create a separate pool, but

       8      it's well within the purview of you folks here to

       9      have that.

      10             And I would say, the best place would be DMV,

      11      because they're in the most contact with carriers at

      12      every stage of the game.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  And that's buses that

      14      are designed for 14 or less; right?

      15             PAUL MORI:  14 or less, it's an --

      16      unfortunately, it's an exemption in the FMCSA, and,

      17      it's right there.

      18             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  We should do so.

      19             PAUL MORI:  Yes.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Thank you.

      21             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Yeah, Paul and John, I

      22      really appreciate you taking the time, and being

      23      here today.  Your testimony is very important to

      24      myself and the panel here.

      25             And, all during the legislative session, I


       1      received input from the association, and I thank you

       2      for that.

       3             PAUL MORI:  And we thank you for listening to

       4      us.

       5             JOHN J. CORRADO:  Assemblyman Montesano, you

       6      asked about the PTSB system safety plan model.

       7             And I don't know if Senator Fuschillo gave

       8      you have a copy of my comments, but at the bottom is

       9      a link.  And it's there, we have it.

      10             Yeah.

      11             PAUL MORI:  Just speaking to what John was

      12      saying there is, it's unusual, but the federal

      13      government has Part 40, which covers drug testing

      14      for CDL drivers.  And they have Part 655 for federal

      15      transit administration properties.  And they're more

      16      inclusive in Part 655 than they are in Part 40.

      17             And, drug, when we were talking before about

      18      the accident, that a driver was killed, I was a

      19      friend of his.

      20             That was Jorge Guevara up in Locust Valley.

      21             I was also one of the first responders on the

      22      scene.

      23             And at the time, you know, you just -- you

      24      shock, because he's a good person, and a good

      25      friend.


       1             And then the other side of me, the

       2      firefighter and medic is thinking of, What can you

       3      do for him?

       4             And there was nothing we could do.

       5             Jorge went through all the drug and alcohol

       6      testing.

       7             It's not -- it's not as apparent, that, how

       8      far we go beyond, to maintain our drivers in the

       9      best possible [unintelligible].

      10             I would have loved to have asked him some

      11      questions on the physical, because the physical

      12      really is in-depth, and it's prescribed by the

      13      federal government.  And we do it twice as often as

      14      the federal government requires.

      15             So, we're out there, making sure children are

      16      safe.

      17             JOHN J. CORRADO:  One last one point.  I'm

      18      sorry.

      19             You know, we talk about all of the

      20      requirements, and there's a lot of stuff in place,

      21      the physicals [unintelligible], and what have you.

      22             I think a common tone here with people that

      23      are expressing concern, is the lack of oversight.

      24             So, you have -- you can put all these things

      25      in writing.  You can even require the interlock.


       1             But if you're a company that's so inclined to

       2      not use it properly, or not keep it maintained

       3      properly, so you can save some money, you know, or a

       4      school district that maybe doesn't have personnel to

       5      properly monitor it, then it doesn't work.

       6             So, I think that's a very -- you know, before

       7      we go further with the regulation, that we look at

       8      some of the oversight.

       9             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you, John.

      10             Thank you, Paul.

      11             David Kelly; Craig Lotz.

      12             Good afternoon, gentlemen.

      13             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Good afternoon.

      14             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And thank you for being

      15      here.

      16             For the record, just state your name, your

      17      title, and your affiliation.

      18             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yes, Craig Lotz,

      19      Chief Executive Officer of Sens-O-Lock of America.

      20             We're located just outside of Albany.

      21             DAVID KELLY:  I'm David Kelly.  I'm the

      22      executive director of the Coalition of Ignition

      23      Interlock Manufacturers.

      24             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much for

      25      being here.


       1             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  I think we're -- thank you

       2      for the opportunity, Senator Fuschillo, and the

       3      panel, to come out and talk a little bit about

       4      ignition interlocks.

       5             Clearly, they're a thoroughly tested and

       6      proven technology that can identify and prevent an

       7      impaired driver from operating a vehicle, be it a

       8      school bus or a vehicle of any sort.

       9             We have, for years, my dad has been an

      10      advocate of this for about 10 or 15 years.

      11             And over the course of that time period, we

      12      have actually looked at the school bus industry and

      13      market as a submarket for the ignition interlocks,

      14      and designed the technology to really be

      15      noninvasive.

      16             Clearly, an ignition interlock, as it's

      17      required for mandated cases, for DUI convictions,

      18      could be invasive for a school bus environment.

      19             There are ways to limit that, to make it as

      20      noninvasive a procedure as possible, yet still

      21      protect the communities in which our drivers are

      22      driving, as well as the children on the school bus.

      23             The way we do that is, using brake-pedal

      24      technology, and, we also have the option to include

      25      a bypass switch.


       1             So in the environment where there is a school

       2      bus yard, and maybe the yard-starter goes out and

       3      has to start 50, or 100, buses, it's really not

       4      reasonable to expect a single person to blow into

       5      50, or 100, devices to start a bus.

       6             So the yard-starter, in that case, with a

       7      key, would disable the ignition interlock, start the

       8      bus, reengage it, take the key out.

       9             When the driver arrives, and, again, assuming

      10      that they're starting the buses to cool or heat

      11      before the route starts, once the driver depresses

      12      the brake pedal to put in gear, it would require a

      13      sample.

      14             It's a 4-second sample, very easy to provide.

      15      It's a straight blow.

      16             Not -- it's a very healthy type of

      17      environment, versus, you know, drawing air back into

      18      your lungs.

      19             So once they provide the sample, and they

      20      pass, the bus driver is able to drive off the lot.

      21             If, for some reason, the driver fails a test,

      22      lights would flash and a horn would blow, indicating

      23      that there's an issue with that particular bus

      24      driver, at which point, somebody could come on site

      25      and look at it, and make a resolution or make a


       1      decision.

       2             Once a driver begins a route, as long as --

       3      and this is an option -- as long as the brake pedal

       4      is being depressed on a regular basis, it could be

       5      defined as every 15 or 20 minutes, they are not

       6      required to provide a retest.

       7             So this enables the driver to remain focused

       8      on driving the school bus, not taking their eyes off

       9      the road and being distracted, providing a sample.

      10             And, also, not having the children visual --

      11      have a visual recognition that the driver is

      12      providing an air sample, and the ridicule that may

      13      follow.

      14             From a -- from the maintenance perspective,

      15      again, this bypass system enables the school bus

      16      maintenance personnel to bypass the system while

      17      they're working on the school bus, not requiring the

      18      driver or the maintenance people -- maintenance

      19      people, in this case, from providing samples as

      20      they're, you know, providing a tune-up, or what have

      21      you.

      22             So, it makes it a very effective means of

      23      operating in that kind of environment.




       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Tell me a little bit

       2      about your company, as a whole.

       3             How long have you been in business?

       4             How big is your company?

       5             How many ignition interlocks?

       6             Are you a manufacturer or a supplier?

       7             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  We're a -- we're based

       8      outside of Albany.  We're a family-owned/operated

       9      business.

      10             My dad started the company 15 years ago.

      11             He, about six years ago, was asking me if I

      12      can take it over.

      13             I've been running companies for the past

      14      16 years.

      15             And, looking at the opportunity, and looking

      16      at the marketplace, I agreed to do so four years

      17      ago.

      18             We have -- currently, we have well over

      19      1,000 current customers who are using our

      20      technology.

      21             Over the course of the last 15 years, you

      22      know, thousands and thousands of customers that have

      23      been using this technology:  Automobiles.  We have

      24      small light-duty trucks, work trucks.

      25             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Any companies installing


       1      them, or individuals on a voluntary basis, other

       2      than a requirement -- a court requirement?

       3             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Sure.

       4             And to your point earlier, about, you know,

       5      drivers -- bus drivers, or a casual driver, that has

       6      to provide a sample, so, you know, if they're not

       7      guilty, if there's no issue, then they're doing this

       8      under the auspices of safety for our children.

       9             So there really should not be an issue

      10      associated with that.

      11             We have hundreds of customers that have, over

      12      the years, purchased these devices on a voluntary

      13      basis; be it for a child, a parent, a spouse, an

      14      ex-spouse, what have you.

      15             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You do the monitoring as

      16      well?

      17             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  We do.

      18             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Servicing?

      19             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yes.

      20             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Repairs?

      21             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yes.

      22             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  I'm sorry, you can --

      23             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  How do you deal --

      24             I'm sorry.

      25             How do you deal with the issue that was


       1      mentioned by one of the prior speakers, our idling

       2      laws, which may require the driver to turn the bus

       3      off, you know, and then have to restart it again

       4      later, constantly, so you may have that happen two

       5      or three times a day?

       6             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Sure.

       7             In that environment, it would -- they'd be

       8      required to provide a sample prior to starting the

       9      vehicle, which I think is what we would want.

      10             This would prevent a driver from taking a

      11      break, possibly going into a bar or restaurant,

      12      consuming alcohol, and returning to the bus, and

      13      starting it.

      14             So, they would have to provide the sample

      15      throughout the day.

      16             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Does that not increase

      17      the use, wear and tear, on the equipment?

      18             Increase the maintenance?

      19             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  It's immaterial.

      20             I mean, if it's 3 times a day, versus, you

      21      know, twice a day, 10 times a day, you know, people

      22      have used these devices now, they'll be -- they'll

      23      blow into it 30, 40, 50 times a day.

      24             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  Do you have statistics

      25      on malfunction?


       1             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Don't have -- no, I do not

       2      have statistics on that.

       3             SENATOR MARCELLINO:  I'm sorry, go ahead.

       4             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Could I ask you a

       5      question?

       6             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Sure.

       7             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  You said that, as

       8      long as the brake pedal is pushed once every

       9      20 minutes or so, that means that you don't have to

      10      stop and do a rolling test, or pull over, or

      11      anything like that; right?

      12             What is that telling the system, just that

      13      the brake pedal is pushed once every 20 minutes?

      14             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Well, again, that's an

      15      option, Assemblyman.

      16             That would be the event that you want to

      17      prevent students from seeing the driver provide a

      18      sample, or, eliminate the driver from being

      19      distracted, providing a sample.

      20             This would enable one to assume that the

      21      driver is, on the road, he or she is not consuming

      22      alcohol.

      23             So, you know, that it's not being required to

      24      do that on a regular basis.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay.  And the other


       1      question I had is:

       2             I noticed in your last page, you say,

       3      "emergency-override procedure."

       4             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yeah.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:

       6             If a malfunction, then a supervisor can

       7      override it, using the key, but, the malfunction

       8      occurs out on the road someplace.

       9             I don't understand.

      10             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Sure.

      11             If that were to occur; so, let's say, a

      12      driver had turned the vehicle off.  For some reason,

      13      the device malfunctioned, and they could not start

      14      the bus, a supervisor could come out and provide the

      15      key --

      16             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Oh, meet them.

      17             Okay, I got you.

      18             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Right.

      19             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  And you said that the

      20      cost, the purchase price for a school bus version,

      21      is $1,800.

      22             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  We have different --

      23             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  And a monthly, I

      24      guess, installation service is another $150; right?

      25             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  We have options.


       1             There is a -- the installation to initially

       2      install the device, with a key switch, is

       3      approximately $150.

       4             We have a lease option.  The device can be

       5      leased for $75 per month;

       6             Or, it can be purchased, for a one-time

       7      basis, for $1,800.

       8             Correct.

       9             As far as the calibration, it's -- we suggest

      10      it every 90 days.

      11             There's a $25 charge for the calibration

      12      service, on a 90-day basis.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Okay, so you have the

      14      option to buy it at $1,800, or lease it at -- what

      15      did you say the amount was?

      16             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  $75.

      17             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  $75 per month.

      18             And then you have an installation cost of

      19      $150?

      20             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Correct.

      21             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  And then, maintenance

      22      charge, or software monitoring, $25.

      23             Okay.

      24             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  So for the first year, with

      25      installation, you're looking at approximately


       1      $1,100, with the maintenance and the installation,

       2      if they lease it.

       3             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  For the first year.

       4             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  For the first year.

       5             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Well, that would be

       6      just about every year, wouldn't it -- well, no --

       7             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Well, you wouldn't have --

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  No, the $150 is the

       9      only thing that you don't have again; right?

      10             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Correct.

      11             Correct.  So you're looking at, about, yeah,

      12      just under $1,000.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Per year.  Okay.

      14             Thank you very much.

      15             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Hi.

      16             You talked about the cut-off switch.

      17             Other than that, is it possible for the

      18      driver, in any way, to override or bypass the

      19      system?

      20             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Not without it being evident

      21      on the report.

      22             If they were to unplug the device, that would

      23      show as a -- as a violation, or a failure, so that

      24      would be noted on the reports.

      25             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  Okay.


       1             And is it possible that another person could

       2      start the vehicle for the driver?

       3             How would you avoid that?

       4             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Sure.

       5             In an unsupervised environment, where the

       6      driver takes the bus home, yeah.

       7             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  But said that's

       8      possible?

       9             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  That's possible, in an

      10      unsupervised approach, yes.

      11             ASSEMBLYMAN MONTESANO:  All right.  Thank

      12      you.

      13             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Just one more thing

      14      that I forgot to ask.

      15             You said there were many -- Senator Fuschillo

      16      asked you, Do you have a lot of clients or

      17      customers? or whatever.

      18             Do you have school bus clients?

      19             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  We don't.

      20             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  In the country, do

      21      you know of any school buses that do it in the

      22      country, anyplace?

      23             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  That's a great question.

      24             We've participated in a school bus conference

      25      in Reno, Nevada, about three years ago, and had some


       1      interest.

       2             I personally contacted superintendents across

       3      the country where there have been alcohol-related

       4      accidents.  And it seems to be -- it doesn't seem to

       5      be a priority.

       6             It's unfortunate.

       7             To my knowledge, right.

       8             ASSEMBLYMAN MCDONOUGH:  Thank you.

       9             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you, Craig, and

      10      David.

      11             I've read your testimony.

      12             I'm not going to -- if you want to read it,

      13      it's fine, but I --

      14             DAVID KELLY:  There were a couple of points I

      15      just wanted to make.

      16             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Yeah.

      17             DAVID KELLY:  I wasn't going to read it.

      18             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  I did want to ask you a

      19      question.

      20             You're the executive director of the

      21      coalition.

      22             Are you -- is that a statewide coalition?

      23             DAVID KELLY:  That -- the coalition is a

      24      national coalition.  It's made up of the three --

      25      three of the largest manufacturers in the country.


       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  So I've seen -- you know,

       2      you mentioned France, also, has a requirement for

       3      school buses as well.

       4             What's the trend throughout the country?

       5             Is this a discussion here in the

       6      United States?

       7             DAVID KELLY:  This is -- this trend, I

       8      wouldn't call it "a trend" in the United States.

       9             I would call it, this is more of an

      10      international discussion.

      11             We have, in France, and in Finland, in

      12      Sweden, there were some pilot programs, in Russia.

      13             There's a little bit more of a stronger

      14      oversight in the

      15      commercial-vehicle/commercial-driver market than

      16      there is here in the United States.

      17             So, to my knowledge, this is really the only

      18      legislative body in the country that is talking

      19      about this on school buses.

      20             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay.

      21             Craig, these are your devices?

      22             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yes.

      23             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  This is the standard,

      24      where you blow in?

      25             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Correct.


       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  All right, we've seen

       2      that in [unintelligible].

       3             Could you talk about this?

       4             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Yeah, sure.

       5             That's just a personal breathalyzer, one that

       6      can be used for, you know, personal use.

       7             We have customers that are not prohibited

       8      from drinking; just not allowed to drink and drive.

       9      So they'll purchase that, to test themselves in the

      10      morning, you know, prior to blowing into this

      11      device.

      12             If they pass that, they will use that.

      13             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  You know, we heard -- and

      14      I'll asked this of both of you -- many excellent

      15      suggestions here today, and recommendations.

      16             Is there an impediment to -- and you may have

      17      answered this when I had stepped out.

      18             We've heard of distractions and impediments

      19      that may be caused because of the installation of

      20      this.

      21             What has been your experience with the

      22      thousands that you have out there?

      23             DAVID KELLY:  Chairman Fuschillo, in a former

      24      life, I was also the acting administrator of the

      25      National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration,


       1      when we started the whole discussion on distraction.

       2             And there has not been any real scientific

       3      research done on the basis of, you know, sort of,

       4      distraction with the devices, and distraction on the

       5      road.

       6             However, there is -- there are millions and

       7      millions of real-world tests that have been

       8      performed with the devices, and we have not seen the

       9      level of distraction.

      10             And that goes into many different reasons,

      11      but, the level of distraction, and the criticisms of

      12      the devices, of causing distractions, they just have

      13      not -- we have enough real-world experience to know

      14      that that's not an issue.

      15             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  How much maintenance is

      16      required of a system like this?

      17             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  That would somewhat depend

      18      upon the states requiring it.

      19             There are, certain states require a

      20      calibration service every 30 days.

      21             Our experience has been that that's -- to

      22      maintain its calibration to a high degree of

      23      accuracy, over 120 days.

      24             But I would say, in this environment, we

      25      would suggest a 90-day calibration period, just to


       1      be safe.

       2             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  So once every 90 days?

       3             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Correct.

       4             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay.

       5             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  And as far as acceptance, you

       6      know, the customers that we have, those that are --

       7      there's a small percent of the mandated population

       8      that dread it.

       9             I mean, nobody wants [unintelligible] over.

      10      This is not something people aspire to have in their

      11      vehicles.

      12             But, those that recognize it's a means

      13      that -- enabling them to drive their children to

      14      school, drive to work, go to the grocery store, are

      15      law-abiding citizens, and use it properly.

      16             Those that purchase it on a voluntary basis

      17      say:  You know what?  I want to keep myself safe,

      18      and my family safe.

      19             And so, they embrace, and it's a -- very

      20      successful.

      21             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  And the monitoring is

      22      done via computer, back to your offices?

      23             DAVID KELLY:  What we do --

      24             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Sorry, David.

      25             F. CRAIG LOTZ:  Well, this would be a


       1      different environment.

       2             We would suggest that the district have a --

       3      calibration equipment on site, and we would train

       4      the personnel on how to perform that on a 90-day

       5      cycle.

       6             The option would be, to have us to do it, Or

       7      have a contractor.

       8             We have a partnership with a company that has

       9      deployed the Child-Check System on 68,000 buses,

      10      nationwide.  So, they're very adept in doing this on

      11      a school -- in a school bus environment.

      12             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Okay.

      13             David?

      14             DAVID KELLY:  There are a variety of business

      15      models that you could use.  And you can look to what

      16      they've done in France and Finland, and other

      17      places, too.

      18             And what Craig just mentioned is a very

      19      viable one as well.

      20             I did want to say that there have been

      21      some -- there's been some discussion about the

      22      reliability of the devices today.

      23             And I would say this:

      24             This body -- the Senate, and New York State

      25      Legislature -- when you debated Leandra's Law, you


       1      had these same discussions come up about the

       2      reliability of the devices.

       3             They were dismissed then.

       4             The devices are reliable.

       5             You're not going to have a positive test

       6      because you have Listerine.

       7             A lot of the manufacturers have

       8      anti-circumvention devices, so somebody who is not

       9      trained on the device can't take the test.

      10             There are a bunch of thing that have been put

      11      into place in the devices, over time, that will take

      12      all of these things into consideration.

      13             So, you have a policy decision in front of

      14      you, and you should be making a policy decision

      15      based on what's good and what's best for the safety

      16      of the children of New York.

      17             It shouldn't be based on whether somebody is

      18      thinking that the devices are reliable or not,

      19      because that's been proven wrong, and they are

      20      reliable.

      21             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Any other questions?

      22             Thank you very much, gentlemen.  I appreciate

      23      your testimony.

      24             Craig, we'll make sure this is returned to

      25      you in the back.


       1             We're going to call the next two speakers up

       2      together:

       3             Chris Mistron is the Traffic Safety/STOP-DWI

       4      Coordinator, Nassau County Traffic Safety;

       5             And, also, Al Belbol, Jr., who's the

       6      co-president of the Levy-Lakeside Elementary School

       7      PTA.

       8             Good afternoon, Chris;

       9             And, good afternoon, Al.

      10             CHRISTOPHER MISTRON:  Good afternoon.

      11             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much for

      12      your patience, and being here.

      13             CHRISTOPHER MISTRON:  No problem.

      14             Legislators, I was asked to come here today

      15      to speak, basically, about the DWI occurrences that

      16      have been with the bus companies.

      17             But, the history of DWIs, that since 1982,

      18      when the inception of the New York State STOP-DWI

      19      legislation established countywide programs

      20      throughout New York State, Nassau County has worked

      21      tirelessly in enforcing the DWI statutes, educating

      22      the population on the dangers of drinking and

      23      driving, prosecuting those individuals that have

      24      shown to ignore the safety of their fellow citizens

      25      by impaired driving, and follow-up by those


       1      convicted, with probation.

       2             Over the past five years, Nassau County has

       3      averaged more than 3,000 DWI arrests a year, with

       4      30 fatalities as a result of the presence of alcohol

       5      or drugs.

       6             We have seen legislation, as addressed,

       7      working to keep our roadways safe from the raising

       8      of the drinking age from 18 to 19, and then,

       9      subsequently, to the current 21.

      10             In those changes, Nassau County saw a

      11      decrease in the "under 21" representation of our DWI

      12      activity, from 20 percent, to as low as 8 percent

      13      per year.

      14             We have seen an improvement in public

      15      awareness of DWI and its effects on society: the

      16      designated driver, the increased care of friends and

      17      family to prevent the tragedy caused by DWI.

      18             Organizations, such as MADD, SADD,

      19      DEDICATED [ph.], and others, have been striving to

      20      fight, and educate.

      21             We have seen legislation to shore up

      22      loopholes that impaired drivers have used to avoid

      23      prosecution.

      24             Roadway improvements through engineering,

      25      safer cars and features, introduced to save lives


       1      have been advanced.

       2             From the seatbelt to the air bag, from the

       3      child seat to the booster seat, we have designated

       4      methods -- or, designed methods to keep occupants of

       5      vehicles safe in the event of crashes.

       6             From the oldest to the youngest of these

       7      occupants, methods have been designed to keep them

       8      safe; laws have been enacted to keep drivers and

       9      their occupants safe; but safety can only be assured

      10      with the proper operation of the motor vehicle.

      11             The most vulnerable of vehicle occupants are

      12      children.

      13             Adults have the opportunity of making

      14      decisions on their own safety.

      15             We want to think that individuals that are

      16      impaired will not drive, but, sadly, that is not

      17      always the case.

      18             Oftentimes others may enter the vehicle with

      19      impaired drivers at their own peril.

      20             We have seen deadly crashes on the southern

      21      state in the past year, where an unlicensed,

      22      impaired driver caused the death of four occupants,

      23      but these occupants were not children.

      24             They had the ability to decide to enter that

      25      car.


       1             Leandra's Law was enacted because children do

       2      not have that ability; the ability to recognize the

       3      situations that they are in.

       4             They are innocent victims in horrific crashes

       5      caused by negligence and indifference.

       6             When the children boarded the bus leaving

       7      St. Edward the Confessor school, they boarded

       8      confidently of the safety of a yellow school bus.

       9             There was no anticipation that the driver

      10      would be impaired and place them in danger.

      11             There are places children feel secure: their

      12      homes, their schools, and the school bus.

      13             We, as a society, place our trust in

      14      individuals that have contact with our children.

      15             In the mornings, we walk our children to the

      16      bus stop, confident in the driver's ability to keep

      17      our children safe.

      18             It's not a bad thing to expect drivers not to

      19      be impaired.

      20             School bus drivers in particular have added

      21      responsibility of caring and carrying innocence.

      22             For that reason, traffic safety in the

      23      Nassau County STOP-DWI encourages consideration of a

      24      requirement that school buses have the ignition

      25      interlock as part of its standard equipment.


       1             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Mr. Belbol.

       2             AL BELBOL, JR.:  My name is Al Belbol, Jr.  I

       3      am the PTA co-president of Levy-Lakeside Elementary

       4      School in Merrick.

       5             Senators, Assemblymen, ladies and gentlemen,

       6      I come before you today as a parent of three

       7      children, two of which are elementary-school age.

       8             I am also co-president of the

       9      Norman J. Levy-Lakeside Elementary School

      10      Parent-Teacher Association.

      11             These two roles in my life are not something

      12      I can turn on and off like a switch.

      13             With every fiber of my existence, I am a

      14      proud and protecting father.

      15             As PTA co-president, I have no greater

      16      concern than the health, welfare, and safety of the

      17      students at my children's school.

      18             As any parent wants, I want to know, that

      19      when I put my child on a school bus, that everything

      20      that can be done to keep them safe has been done.

      21             The proposed bill before us, mandating school

      22      bus ignition interlocks, is essential for child

      23      safety.

      24             Every school-aged child is affected by school

      25      bus safety.  Even if your child does not ride a bus


       1      to and from school, all children, at some point,

       2      take a school bus for extracurricular activities or

       3      class trips.

       4             As a parent, I want the peace of mind that my

       5      child will be as safe as possible when they ride a

       6      school bus.

       7             By and large, school bus drivers are

       8      well-trained professionals who operate school buses

       9      in a safe manner, but, unfortunately, some

      10      individuals in the recent past have failed to do so.

      11             All professions have some degree of bad

      12      apples, and bus drivers are no different in this

      13      way.

      14             That reality leads to us seek solutions to

      15      protect our children.

      16             Without this commonsense legislation, we, as

      17      a society, are not doing our best to protect our

      18      children.

      19             Every parent I have spoken to in the

      20      Norman J. Levy-Lakeside PTA is firmly in support of

      21      this proposed legislation.

      22             Perhaps it just coincidence, but the

      23      late-Senator Norman Levy was a champion of

      24      transportation safety, and a legend as a public

      25      servant.


       1             I have a great comfort and pride to be

       2      representing the PTA of the school named for

       3      Senator Levy, and now speaking before you to support

       4      legislation he would also be championing.

       5             I can only hope that your efforts to make

       6      this bill a law will soon become a reality.

       7             In the same manner in which Senator Levy was

       8      a pioneer in the first seatbelt law, this

       9      ignition-interlock law will become the standard

      10      throughout our nation.

      11             This proactive legislation will save lives

      12      for generations to come.

      13             As stated in the justification for this bill,

      14      there have been six incidents of bus drivers driving

      15      drunk or alcohol-impaired in New York State in the

      16      last three years.

      17             These are six incidents that we know of

      18      because they were reported by the media.

      19             How many more times were bus drivers driving

      20      our children drunk or alcohol-impaired and never

      21      went detected?

      22             No matter the amount of times this

      23      acceptable -- unacceptable situation has happened,

      24      as a parent, one fact rings true:

      25             Any time it has happened until now, we, as a


       1      society, have let our children down.

       2             We have failed to do all we can do with laws

       3      and technology to protect our greatest asset: our

       4      children, our future.

       5             We have the technology available.  Now we

       6      need to enact this law, to do the right thing, and

       7      to do our best to keep our children safe.

       8             I want to thank for your time today, and the

       9      opportunity to express my views on such important

      10      legislation.

      11             SENATOR FUSCHILLO:  Thank you very much, Al;

      12             And, Chris, thank you very much.

      13             Any questions from the panel?

      14             I want to conclude by saying:

      15             In my opening statement, I said we would get

      16      testimony from concerned parents, and individuals in

      17      the field of law enforcement, education,

      18      transportation, and technology.

      19             And we've received testimony in support for

      20      the legislation, we've received testimony opposing

      21      the legislation, but, we've also received

      22      suggestions and recommendations for future

      23      legislation, and ideas to strengthen state laws,

      24      with the common goal, I believe, that we all have,

      25      it's to protect the children that board the school


       1      buses every single day.

       2             And that's the commonality that is extremely

       3      important, but was well-received.

       4             So, gentlemen, thank you very much for your

       5      testimony.

       6             Those that are still here that have

       7      testified, I appreciate it.

       8             And those that came just to hear the

       9      Committee hearing, I thank you very much for being

      10      here today.

      11             And to my colleagues as well, thank you very

      12      much.

      13             We will proceed now, and analyze all the

      14      testimony that we have received.

      15             And we will proceed with legislation that

      16      will, hopefully, go through the Transportation

      17      Committee this year, but to take all of the comments

      18      into consideration as we proceed.

      19             So, thank you very much, and this concludes

      20      our hearing.

      21             Thank you.

      22                  (Whereupon, at approximately 12:27 p.m.,

      23        the public hearing held before the New York State

      24        Senate Standing Committee on Transportation

      25        concluded, and adjourned.)