The New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) joined with other state agencies to urge motorists to take extra caution as a new school year gets underway.
Drivers are reminded that passing a school bus that is stopped with its red lights flashing and “stop” sign out is not only dangerous, it’s illegal. Fines for passing a stopped school bus range from a minimum of $250 for a first violation to a maximum of $1,000 for three violations and three years and five points on your license. Those convicted of three of these violations in three years will also have their driver license revoked for a minimum of six months, and could even face jail time.
DMV was joined by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC), State Police and the State Department of Transportation (DOT) in urging motorists to obey the traffic laws and watch out for children.
“As students return to school, drivers need to be aware that children will be taking a bus, being driven by a parent, walking or riding a bike to class,” said Terri Egan, DMV Deputy Executive Commissioner and Acting Chair of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. “Passing a school bus when it is stopped is an incredibly dangerous act that puts children’s lives at risk.
Drivers must be extra cautious, and parents should join with pupil transportation professionals to educate their children on how to get on or off the school bus and safely cross the street.”
When a school bus activates its yellow flashing lights, it means the school bus is about to stop to pick up or drop off students. When a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing, traffic that approaches from either direction must stop before reaching the bus. Drivers should stop at least 20 feet away from the bus.
“The law requires drivers to stop even in front of the school and in school parking lots, and you must stop for a school bus even if it is on the opposite side of a divided highway,” Egan said. “Drivers should never pass a stopped school bus, and we are especially disturbed that some drivers have been caught passing on the right side of the bus where children board and exit the bus.”
Last year, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced the New York State Pedestrian Safety Action Plan. The five-year, $110 million multi-agency initiative is the state’s first ever comprehensive pedestrian safety plan. It is being implemented cooperatively by the New York State Department of Transportation (DOT), the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee (GTSC). That effort includes the “See and Be Seen!” education and enforcement campaign that focuses on pedestrian safety and driver awareness of pedestrians. A billboard campaign sponsored by GTSC is currently running statewide emphasizing the message “Stop on Red. Kids Ahead.”
“New York State has aggressive programs to ensure school bus and pedestrian safety throughout the school year,” New York State Department of Transportation Acting Commissioner Cathy Calhoun said. “Working with local communities and our state agency partners, we use engineering, education and enforcement to help cyclists, pedestrians and motorists get to where they need to be safely.”
Each year, GTSC partners with the New York Association for Pupil Transportation for Operation Safe Stop Day, and state, county, and local law enforcement agencies will be out to enforce the law on passing school buses throughout the school year. Since 2003, participating law enforcement agencies have set a specific date where they target
enforcement of the law on passing school buses and compile the results.
Last April 27, 70 police agencies from across New York participated and produced 1,037 tickets for passing a stopped school bus and 2,964 tickets for other moving violations. Learn more about Operation Safe Stop and the penalties for passing a school bus on the GTSC website.
The New York Association for Public Transportation (NYAPT) also does a monthly survey of bus drivers to determine how often they are illegally passed in one day. NYAPT calculated that in the 2016-17 school year, an average of 40,496 buses were illegally passed every day, up from 29,800 the prior school year. Of those passes, NYAPT estimated 2,196 a day on average were on the right hand side of the bus.
New York State Police Superintendent George P. Beach II said, “With the start of the school year upon us, everyone must work with law enforcement to keep our youngest New Yorkers safe. Make sure to pay particular attention to walking children, school bus traffic, and school zones. Please, watch the road, put down your electronic device and keep your eye out for children going to and from school.”
Before a school bus stops to load or discharge passengers, the driver will flash yellow warning lights. The state Education Department recommends school bus drivers activate their yellow or amber lights approximately 300 feet before they stop.
When you see the warning lights, decrease speed and be prepared to stop. When you stop for a school bus, you must wait until the red lights stop flashing or the bus driver or a traffic officer signals you can proceed.
After you stop for a school bus, look for children along the side of the road. Drive slowly until you have passed them. Most school bus related deaths and injuries occur while children cross the street after being discharged from the bus.
Remember that vehicles that transport people with disabilities can be equipped as school buses and you must stop for them as you would for other school buses. Such vehicles are equipped with yellow and red signal lamps for use when picking up and dropping off passengers.
According to a new report from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration that tracked school transportation related crash data for 10 years, more school age pedestrians were killed from 6 to 8 a.m. and from 3 to 4 p.m. than any other hours of the day.
From 2006 to 2015 there were 1,313 people of all ages killed in school transportation related crashes—an average of 131 fatalities per year the NHTSA report says. Fifty-four of them were occupants of school transportation vehicles, 137 were occupants of other vehicles, 102 were pedestrians, and 8 were bicyclists. Thirty-five percent of the school age pedestrians killed in school transportation related crashes from 2006 to 2015 were 8 to 13 years old.
The National Association for Pupil Transportation offers some advice for parents on how to teach their children the proper way to exit a school bus:
Parents are also cautioned to make sure their children’s clothing and backpacks do not present a potential hazard. Jacket and sweatshirt drawstrings, backpack straps, scarves and loose clothing may get caught on the bus handrail or door.
New York also works hard to make sure the buses students ride in are safe. Every school bus in New York State is inspected at an operator provided facility every six months. These school vehicles are operated by school districts, private schools and many for-hire school vehicle contractors.
Inspections, which are usually scheduled in advance, take approximately 60 to 90 minutes to complete depending on the size and type of the vehicle. Initial inspections of new vehicles take longer.
More than 400 vehicle elements are examined during an inspection, including brakes, suspension, steering, exhaust, lights, tires, engine, seats, seatbelts, and the driver’s compartment. If a bus is labeled out-of-service because of a major defect, it cannot carry
passengers until the defect is corrected and the bus passes re-inspection. Required maintenance records, preventive maintenance program, and driver inspection reports are also checked.
School buses are constructed to protect children in an accident. Seating compartments
are designed to protect passengers from crash impacts. In wintry weather, students can be safer traveling to school in a bus than a passenger vehicle because of a school bus’s safety features.