Now that October is here, fall has truly arrived. And in school districts across the state, students are gearing up for Halloween, whether they’re picking out costumes for trick or treating, or making plans for Halloween dances and parties.
But Halloween isn’t the only cause for celebration this month. Oct. 21-25 is National School Bus Safety week. And New York State’s school bus drivers got a nice treat this past legislative session. After highlighting the dangers students face from drivers who recklessly careen past stopped school buses, New York became the latest state to institute a stop arm camera law.
This is a big step forward for student safety — an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass stopped school buses daily across New York State.
Thanks to the new law, school districts can not only install stop-arm video cameras on school buses, but they’re empowered to do something with the footage. Previously, reckless drivers who illegally passed stopped buses could only be ticketed if a police officer witnessed the violation.
Under the new law, camera footage can be used to track down careless drivers and bring them to justice.
In large part, this win is due to the activism of our support staff members. As part of NYSUT’s “Support School Staff” campaign, transportation professionals visited state lawmakers to share their experiences and to advocate for the law.
We’ve heard that it’s already making a difference.
In the Bethlehem Central School District near Albany, some of the district’s new buses already have side cameras. And according to bus driver Charlie Jones, who heads the Bethlehem Central United Employees Association, a motorist has already been caught passing a stopped bus.
Thanks to the new law, the district was able to get the plate number from the camera footage, and report it to the police.
Although we realize it’s gonna take some time for the initiative to really get started, we hope school districts will work swiftly to install stop-arm cameras on buses.
Drivers who blatantly disregard student safety must be held accountable.
So as we salute the hard work of our school bus drivers this October, let’s also take a moment to thank the lawmakers who did their part to get this important legislation approved.
While I enjoy a candy bar as much as the next guy, having this law on the books is one of the sweetest Halloween treats of all.
Andy Pallotta, a former elementary teacher, is president of the more than 600,000-member New York State United Teachers.
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