10.30.19

SCHUMER REVEALS: CRITICAL FED REPORT ON SCHOOL BUS SAFETY THAT STUDIES NEW TECH—LIKE STOP SIGN CAMS ON A BUS’S SIDE—SITS PARKED IN FED BUREAUCRACY; WITH +2.3M NY KIDS RIDING EACH DAY, SENATOR DEMANDS FEDS RELEASE REPORT, IMPLEMENT ANY NEEDED ACTIONS & CREATE FUND TO HELP DISTRICTS PURCHASE CAMS THAT CAN PROTECT KIDS

On A Single Day This Past May, NY Law Enforcement Issued +600 Tickets To Motorists Who Illegally Passed A Stopped School Bus; Experts Say +50,000 NY’ers Illegally Pass Stopped School Buses Daily

To Protect Kids, New NYS Law Permits Cams On Bus Arms When Door Opens—BUT Many Districts Can’t Afford To Install Them; Senator Says Feds Should Help 

Schumer: If Bus-Arm Cams Can Decrease Dangerous & Illegal Passing Then Feds Should Lend A Hand 

On a conference call with reporters, and in the thick of the school year, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today shed light on an issue of utmost importance: the safety of Upstate New York children while they are traveling in school buses to and from school. Across New York, roughly 2.3 million children ride the school bus each and every day; meanwhile, more than 50,000 New York vehicles illegally pass school buses, with their stop signs extended, illuminated and clearly marked, on the average day. In May, New York State launched a one-day law enforcement initiative, “Operation Safe Stop Education and Enforcement Day,” which resulted in more than 600 tickets for passing stopped school buses. 

Schumer explained that these traffic crimes often go unpunished, with perpetrators escaping scot-free, placing children in harm’s way. Although many states, including New York, have begun to establish programs mandating the installation of cameras on school bus stop signs to enforce these essential traffic laws, federal rules lag behind. Schumer explained that even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the issue and worthiness of a federal requirement in 2015, and was set to issue a report on it by early 2018, it has not yet released any data or recommendations. Therefore, for the safety of New York students, Schumer urged NHTSA to expedite the release of its study, and if found necessary, implement new safety guidelines for cameras on school bus stop signs and establish federal funding opportunities for installation.

“There is absolutely nothing more important than protecting our Upstate children when they travel by bus to and from school. And—alarmingly—right now, an average of 50,000 drivers a day throughout New York don’t obey the simple and essential traffic rule of stopping when a school bus has its stop sign extended, putting our kids squarely in harm’s way,” said Senator Schumer. “Worse still, for years, the federal government has slow-walked the release of critical data and a report on the effectiveness of installing cameras on school bus stop signs as a measure of enforcing traffic laws and deterring perpetrators, essentially kneecapping safety improvement efforts. So my message to the feds is simple: it’s time to slow down cars and speed up the release of this potentially life-saving report, and if deemed necessary, change safety standards to require the installation of these cameras on all new school buses. 

Schumer stated that, as the premier traffic safety administration in the country, NHTSA has long been at the forefront of preventing deaths and serious injuries of children who ride school buses. To combat this frightening scenario, in recent years NHTSA began collecting data for a study on the effectiveness of adding cameras to the stop signs on school buses as a safety measure. Schumer called this NHTSA research a critical step in the right direction, however, not enough on its own. It has been four years since the study was announced, with the report expected by early 2018, but it has yet to be released, and over ten years since NHTSA revised its safety program guidelines for student transportation, which states use to minimize the danger of death or injury to children while they are traveling to and from school. Schumer urged NTSB, for the sake of the safety of New York State children, to release the report and its findings as soon as possible, and implement any necessary updates to safety guidelines immediately thereafter.

Additionally, Schumer said, the potential rulemaking prompted by the release of the report could permit the use of federal funding to install these safety cameras, ensuring that school districts aren’t forced to pay an arm and a leg for them. NHTSA currently sets guidelines for the State Highway Safety Program and offer states direction in their safety efforts to optimize the effectiveness of highway safety programs. Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 17 on Pupil Transportation Safety lays out strategies for minimizing, to the greatest extent possible, the danger of death or injury to school children while they are traveling to and from school and school-related events. Dependent on the report findings, NHTSA should update these guidelines to include school bus cameras, opening the door for them to be federally funded.

Schumer argued that far too many drivers currently violate the law by whizzing past school buses when the arm of the stop sign on a school bus is fully extended, and, in the worst cases, cause serious injuries to children and even death. According to a National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services survey, released in 2018, more than 100,000 school bus drivers observed almost 85,000 cars and other vehicles illegally passing school buses in just one day. Furthermore, Schumer explained, roughly 2.3 million New York State children travel to and from school in more than 50,000 buses throughout the state, and more than 50,000 vehicles illegally pass those school buses per day.

Schumer highlighted how 75 percent of all school bus fatalities are attributed to oncoming vehicles. While, thankfully, the number of children who die each year from walking to and from a stopped bus is low, Schumer said, many are hit and injured. Schumer argued that even one death or injury from drivers illegally passing school buses is one too many, and an entirely preventable tragedy.

To address this problem, over 21 states in the U.S., including New York, have either begun programs or allowed local school districts to carry out programs to install cameras on school bus stop signs, as a means of enforcement of safety laws and a strong preventative deterrent. The states believe school bus cameras will keep children safe while they are engaging in one of the most critical activities for future success: attending school. Schumer argued that when drivers know they are being carefully watched, they will be less likely to break traffic laws, such as stopping when school buses are stopped.

Schumer concluded that for the safety of Upstate students, the time has come to see the results of NHTSA’s study of school bus cameras and build on these findings with concrete and meaningful action.

A copy of Schumer’s letter to NHTSA appears below.

Dear Acting Administrator Owens:

I write to you request you take action on a matter of utmost importance: the safety of our country’s school children while they are traveling in school buses to and from school.

Too many drivers currently violate the law by whizzing past school buses when the arm of the “STOP” sign on the bus is fully extended, and, in the worst cases, cause serious injuries and even death. Nationwide, 25 percent of students—or about 19 million students—ride school buses to school and school-associated activities each year. Yet in a 2018 survey, the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation Services reports that more than 100,000 school bus drivers observed almost 85,000 vehicles illegally passing school buses in a single day. In my home state of New York alone, more than 50,000 drivers illegally pass school buses each day. Furthermore, 75 perfect of all school bus fatalities are attributed to oncoming vehicles. While thankfully the number of children who die each year from walking to and from a stopped bus is low, many are hit and injured. Even one death from drivers illegally passing school buses is one death too many.

To address this problem, over 21 states across the country, including my home state of New York, have either begun programs or allowed local districts to carry out programs to install cameras on school bus stop signs as a means enforcement safety laws and a preventative deterrent. When drivers know they are being watched, they are more careful to obey laws, such as stopping when school buses are stopped. These states believe school bus cameras will keep our children safe while they are engaging in one of the most important activities for success: attending school. 

As global leader in motor vehicle and highway safety, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has long been at the forefront of preventing deaths and serious injuries of children who ride school buses. To combat this frightening scenario, I understand your agency has collected data for a study on the effectiveness of adding cameras to the stop signs on school buses as a safety measure. NHTSA’s work to evaluate how cameras can serve as a deterrent to reduce school bus stop-arm violations is a step in the right direction to address this alarming issue. However, it has been four years since the study was announced without any results, and it has been over ten years since NHTSA revised its safety program guidelines for student transportation, which states use to minimize the danger of death or injury to school children while they are traveling to and from school.

For the safety of our students, the time has come to see the results of NHTSA’s study of school bus cameras and build on these finding to protect our country’s young students from injury and death. Accordingly, I call on NHTSA to swiftly release this study and, if deemed fit, to revise its safety guidelines to recommend that all states implement stop-arm camera enforcement programs.

Thank you for your time and consideration. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff.

Sincerely,

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