State lawmakers continue to push for school bus cameras

June 12, 2018 05:21 PM

State lawmakers continue to push for cameras on school bus stop-arms.

The cameras would be located outside of the bus and would start rolling when the stop sign is engaged. They would capture movement, grabbing images from a license plate passing by the stopped bus.

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A $250.00 fine would then be sent to the car owner.

Known as the School Bus Camera Safety Act, Senator Catherine Young held a press conference on Tuesday to discuss Senate Bill 518-B.

“It would authorize the installation and use of stop-arm cameras on school buses to detect and record vehicles illegally passing stopped school buses. The bill would permit evidence taken from the cameras to be used in issuing tickets to violators,” stated the press release.

Senator Young explained that there are already 15 states with similar laws. It would not be mandated, but would be up to each district to decide if they want to install them.

The idea is that the money from the fines would go back to the school district to offset the cost.

Changes are also being made to protect students once they’re inside the bus.

Recently, the NTSB announced it was recommending three-point seatbelts on each bus.

“We’ve seen these types of accidents and the evidence keeps going back to the seat belt, the lap-shoulder particularly, would protect those students,” said Peter Mannella, the Executive Director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.

Mannella was also part of Tuesday’s press conference, acknowledged by lawmakers as an advocate for student safety, and someone who continues to push for the cameras on the stop-arms.

“If we can prevent fatalities, accidents, or minor injuries to students with investing in this technology, it is something that’s worth it,” he said.

Local districts explained that the move to include over the shoulder seatbelts would go far beyond the cost of materials.

First, there is the concern over how to afford buses outfitted with three-point seatbelts, electronic stability control, emergency braking, and event data records.

The Hilton School District estimates it would take nine years to outfit its fleet by trade-ins, or to outfit an entire fleet could cost as much as $1.2 million. It estimated the cost is between $10-13,000.00 per bus.

“It would also have an impact on seating capacity, especially on the High School/Middle School buses, which could lead to needing more buses,” explained Transportation Director Joe LaMarca through an email.

He added that the use of seatbelts would also come with safety procedures and training for drivers, attendants and students.

As the Greece Central School District points out, that could require hiring additional staff.

“Districts might have to hire attendants for many buses. The driver alone cannot be expected to watch the road and safely transport dozens of children while continually checking to make sure each child keeps their seatbelts on for the duration of the ride,” explained Community Relations Manager Laurel Heiden with the Greece Central School District.

She explained that if the law was enacted, the district would phase it in as new buses were purchased. The school district is on a 10-year replacement cycle.

Some area schools already offer students the option of using a three-point seatbelt.

Honeoye Falls-Lima Central School District has already been equipping all buses with the three-point seatbelts for students, requiring their use.

“We decided to take that step without waiting to be told to,” explained Director of Transportation and Security Bill Harvey. He added that because of that, there is no extra expense to the school district.

The Canandaigua City School District wants to see more conclusive proof that the three-point seatbelts are truly a safety enhancement before using a massive amount of taxpayer dollars to purchase them.

The district has 57 buses in its fleet, which would cost around $800,000 for the added seatbelts.

“It would be difficult to get the proper fit for the younger children and supervision of their wearing might be challenging,” explained Community Relations Coordinator Andy Thomas.

As Thomas explained, school buses are designed to compartmentalize the seating.

He added, “the seat backs in front of any rider are designed to absorb the impact of a child sliding forward in the event of an accident. Small children, particularly, are subject to serious abdomen injuries with seatbelts.”


Stephanie Robusto

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