Ongoing Efforts to Improve School Bus Safety

Introduction

New York State transports 2.3 million children with more than 50,000 school buses to school every year. Keeping children safe on the road, whether they are traveling in a personal vehicle or getting on or off a school bus, is one of the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee’s (GTSC) highest priorities. Please see below for what GTSC is doing to improve school bus safety across the state.

School Bus Safety Week

Every October, the GTSC, along with state and local safety partners, participate in National School Bus Safety Week. The goal is to engage parents, students, teachers, motorists, school bus operators, school administrators, and other interested parties to join forces and address the importance of school bus safety.

This year, National School Bus Safety Week will run October 17-21, 2022. More information is available at the National Association for Pupil Transportation.

Operation Safe Stop

Operation Safe Stop is program that seeks to promote school bus safety through a combination of education and enforcement efforts. The goal is to proactively educate motorists about the dangers of passing stopped school buses. It is a cooperative project supported by GTSC, NYAPT, the New York State Education Department (NYSED), the New York State School Bus Contractors Association, the student transportation industry, and state, county, city and local law enforcement agencies.

During the 2019 Operation Safe Stop Education and Enforcement Day, 702 police officers from 75 law enforcement agencies participated in the enforcement campaign. Their combined efforts produced 646 tickets for passing stopped school buses and 1,991 tickets for other moving violations. Police also made 36 arrests for penal law violations, 33 arrests for aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle and 5 arrests for driving while intoxicated or impaired by alcohol.

Operation Safe Stop will be taking place this year on Thursday, April 28, 2022.

NYS Laws Supporting School Bus Safety

In New York State, it is illegal to pass a stopped school bus when the large red visual sign is in operation. Flashing lights mean the bus is picking up or discharging students.

All motorists are required to stop whether approaching a stopped school bus from the front or overtaking it from the rear. This applies whenever their visual signal is in operation on any public highway, street, or private road.

The first-time fine for illegally passing a school bus is $250 - $400 and/or possibly 30 days in jail. Repeat offenders can face up to $1,000 in fines and up to 180 days in jail.

Effective August 19, 2019, the new school bus camera law authorizes school districts and municipalities to use stop-arm cameras on school buses to hold vehicle owners responsible for their cars passing a stopped school bus.  This program allows a school district to equip school buses with stop-arm cameras designed to capture images of vehicles illegally passing stopped buses. The images are then transmitted to the municipality and used to identify the owners of vehicles and to send notices of liability to the owners. Tickets given by these cameras can result in fines of $250 for a first violation up to $300 for each violation in an 18-month period. The owners may then pay a fine or contest their liability.

New York State’s school bus seat belt law requires all school buses manufactured after July 1, 1987 to be equipped with seat belts. New York State does not currently mandate seat belt use on school buses, but rather leaves the decision to each school district. However, the law does require any child under 4 years of age to be in a federally approved child safety seat, even if the child is riding in a school bus.