ALBANY - National School Bus Safety Week is Oct. 22-26. The New York Association for Pupil Transportation is recognizing National School Bus Safety Week by calling attention to the benefits and overall safety of the school buses and school transportation systems that transport over 2.3 million New York children every day and some 25 million nationwide.
The yellow school bus is an icon in our society. It speaks of safety and security and a solid and wholesome education for our children. That safety and security do not come easily but require the dedication and hard work of many professionals in the school transportation community.
The focus for this week's activities is on the continuing and dangerous problem of "illegal passing of school buses" which occurs when motorists fail to stop for school buses that are stopped to pick up or drop off their students. During this School Bus Safety Week, surveys will be conducted of school bus drivers who will share data on the incidents of illegal passing that they witness from their drivers' seat. The results of these surveys will be shared at the end of School Bus Safety Week.
A stopped school bus with its flashing red lights engaged is a sign to motorists that children are going to be getting onto or stepping down from the school bus. When motorists fail to stop for such school buses, they present a real-time danger to the children who ride school buses, and they are committing a serious crime.
Highway safety and school bus safety advocates report that motorists pass school buses some 50,000 times each day in New York state. Research projects using digital license plate readers on school buses to scan traffic support this number and suggest it may be even higher.
The Facts: New York State Law (Sec. 1174/Vehicle and Traffic Law) requires that all motorists come to a full stop when approaching a school bus that has its red flashing lights engaged. This law applies to vehicles approaching from either direction and whether on two-lane or multi-lane roads. The law allows the courts to impose fines starting at $250 for the first violation and rising to $1,000 for the third violation plus points on licenses and possible imprisonment.
School transportation professionals take numerous steps to ensure the safety of the children each day. They train drivers to the highest standards, inspect and maintain school buses to rigorous federal and state specifications, and plan daily routes that are as efficient and safe as possible.
The facts are that children are injured each year by passing motorists and we have had two fatalities in the past seven years. One of those fatalities was a seven-year-old girl who was struck by a car that had passed her school bus on the passenger side and struck and killed her as she was stepping down onto the pavement. Additionally, school bus drivers report that they frequently must shut the bus doors to stop children from leaving the bus when cars are passing on the passenger side. Were it not for their quick reactions, more students might be hurt or killed.
This is simply not acceptable. It's time for the adults who drive motor vehicles to act responsibly when approaching a stopped school bus.