ALBANY — Governor Andrew Cuomo Tuesday announced new proposals in his fiscal year 2020 Executive Budget to bolster student safety on school buses.

The Governor's comprehensive proposal would authorize school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses, increase the fine for passing a stopped school bus and require students to wear seatbelts on school buses. These proposals build on the Governor's leadership in ensuring student safety and modernizing school safety laws.

"The safety of New York's schoolchildren is our top priority and reckless drivers who put our kids in danger must be held accountable," Governor Cuomo said. "Motorists have a responsibility to pay attention and abide by the law, especially when driving in the vicinity of school buses, and these measures will ensure students make it to and from school safely and help prevent needless tragedies."

State Senator Cathy Young (R, C, I, 57th District) is a long-time proponent of the measures.

"New York, like every state in the nation, has a law making it illegal for motorists to pass stopped school buses. Yet, statistics tell us that upwards of 50,000 motorists each day recklessly disregard this law, senselessly putting countless children at risk in the process. That is why I applaud the news that Governor Cuomo has included in his budget proposal, the measure I’ve championed for many years, authorizing school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses," Young said. "This common-sense technology is able to detect and capture images of vehicles that pass stopped school buses so that lawbreakers can be ticketed and fined. In states where the technology is already in use, reports indicate that the cameras result in violation declines of between 30 to 50 percent." 

In New York, approximately 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school every year. Although it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus, on Operation Safe Stop in April 2018 - a day in which law enforcement target citations for passing a stopped school bus - over 850 people ignored the law and were ticketed. Extrapolated for 180 days of school, someone passes a stopped school bus 150,000 times a year, endangering the safety of school children.

To ensure students are safe on their way to and from school, the Governor is proposing authorizing school districts to install stop-arm cameras, which would document and record illegal passing of the school bus, and issue a resulting ticket in order to stop this behavior for good. As an added deterrent, the proposal would increase the fine for passing a stopped school bus to further increase student safety. In addition, the Governor has put forth a proposal that would require students to wear seatbelts on school buses.

Building on student safety reforms proposed in the FY 2020 Executive Budget, Governor Cuomo recently announced a proposal to formally reinstate the speed camera program in New York City and more than double the number of zones in which the cameras would be installed from 140 to 290. Speed cameras are a proven method to not only reduce car crashes, but improve the survivability rates in school zones. After the Republican-led Senate blocked passage of legislation that would have allowed the program to continue in 2018, Governor Cuomo declared a State of Emergency as a temporary means of reinstating the program.

In 2016, Governor Cuomo modernized the school safety laws to increase student safety. The updated laws required school districts to designate a point of contact in case of emergency, increase training requirements for faculty and staff and update safety drills to include a lock down event.

“Many people would be alarmed to learn that the greatest daily hazard to the lives and safety of our children is their walk to and from the school bus," Young said. "This was brought into heartbreaking focus this past October when we learned of the tragic deaths and injuries of several young children, across four states, who were attempting to board or waiting for school buses. A moment’s carelessness will forever haunt those families and the involved motorists."

Young is hopeful the legislation will get passed in 2019.

"Last year, this legislation advanced further than ever before, marking its first passage in the Senate. Legislators of both parties voted in favor, 62-0. Despite the momentum behind the bill, it died in the Assembly," she said. "This is a new session and a new opportunity to finally get this law on the books. With the Governor’s support behind this initiative, I am hopeful that 2019 will be the year we act to authorize this lifesaving technology.”