NY State Lawmakers May Increase Penalty for School-Bus Safety Violators
New York state lawmakers, in pursuit of greater school bus safety, are considering higher fines for drivers who violate school bus safety laws. Laws are already in place mandating school bus maintenance, but soon, requirements could be even more stringently enforced. In a meeting at the East Syracuse-Minoa School District bus garage, the heads of transportation departments from school districts throughout Central New York discussed student safety on rides to and from school and how to improve safety records. During the meeting, every driver present confirmed that they had seen other drivers pass their school buses while they were stopped. The New York State Senate had previously approved several bills that also dealt with school bus safety. One of these bills would increase the penalty for passing a stopped school bus and would dictate that repeat offenders have their licenses suspended for 60 days, pay a $1,000 fine, and incur five penalty points on their license. Under the current law, drivers currently face fines and points on their license for passing stopped school buses, but lawmakers want to create a greater deterrent to unsafe driving around school buses.
Professional school bus drivers have said that enforcement is essential, noting that it is sometimes difficult for them to document offenders license plate numbers. Julie Bradish, a Mexico School District bus driver, reported, “I’d rather be focusing on the students or the students at large than worrying about the license plate that just came through.” On divided highways, most jurisdictions in America and Canada do not require other drivers to stop for a school bus when they are on the opposite side of the road from the bus. However, New York State is one of the few which does require this and drivers may be unaware of.
Indeed, many of the traffic violations regarding school buses are the result of out of state drivers being unaware of the rules in New York. New York Vehicle and Traffic Law requires drivers to stop and wait for stopped school buses to protect children from entering and exiting the vehicle. First offenses for not stopping for a school bus include five points and a fine between $250 and $400. A second conviction will see the fine raised to between $600 and $750. Third conviction fines are between $750 and $1,000. Though it is seldom used, Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1174(a) grants a little more power to judges to deter school bus violations. A judge can impose up to 30 days in jail for a first violation, and 180 for a second or third violation. Additionally, the driver will incur a $70 New York State surcharge on all moving violations. Furthermore, there are Driver Assessment Fees imposed on drivers who accumulate six or more points on their licenses. This fee is $300 for six points and $75 for every point above. Then, a driver’s car insurance company could increase rates for dangerous driving.