ALBANY – The Democrat-controlled state Senate passed a package of bills Wednesday designed to make New York’s streets, roads and waterways safer, including a measure aimed at cracking down on drivers who pass stopped school buses.
According to the legislation sponsored by Sen. Tim Kennedy, D-Buffalo, school districts would be allowed to install video cameras on the stop arms that extend when a school bus stops to pick up or drop off students. Drivers caught illegally passing stopped school buses would face fines starting at $250, with municipalities and school districts splitting the money.
The measure passed 57-0 in the 63-seat Senate.
The Democrat-led Assembly approved the legislation in March. The bill now goes to Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who supports the bill. Senate Democrats said some school districts could have stop arm cameras installed on buses by the time students return to classes in September.
Kennedy, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said the problem of drivers passing stopped buses each school day in all of the state’s 700 school districts has been under enforced.
“The numbers are mind boggling. Studies have shown over, over and over that vehicles pass stopped school buses in the state of New York — each day — to the tune of 50,000 illegally,” Kennedy, noting that his three children ride a school bus every day, said on the Senate floor. “That number is absolutely unconscionable.”
Passage of the bill came 19 days after an interior school bus video camera showed the driver grabbing a student’s jacket as he was about to exit the bus and step into the path of a car that was illegally passing on the right shoulder of a road in Chenango County.
Another part of the approved safety package is a bill that would require all vehicle passengers to wear seat belts when riding in the back seat.
Sponsored by Sen. David Carlucci, D-Rockland County, the measure would allow police to issue a ticket to anyone 16 or older sitting in a back seat without wearing a seat belt. Current law requires seat belts for all front-seat passengers as well as all passengers younger than 16 in the back seat. The legislation was supported by the AAA and the Medical Society of the State of New York.
Other legislation passed as part of the nine-piece package included a bill requiring new drivers to learn about pedestrian and bicyclist safety as part of pre-licensing exams; a proposal to include school bus safety in drivers’ education courses, and a measure to require the operators of motor boats to complete a boating safety course if they were born on or after Jan. 1, 1993.