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 LI 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 & About 200 Tickets Were Issued Last Year In Nassau & Suffolk, But Illegal Pass Numbers Are Likely Much Higher
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 On Long Island Then Feds Should Lend A Hand
Noting that in just one day of enforcement across New York dubbed “Operation Safe Stop Education and Enforcement Day,” over 600 motorists were cited for illegally passing a stopped school bus and the roughly 200 illegal passes that were caught just last year in Nassau and Suffolk, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer demanded the release of a federal report that could increase school bus safety locally while announcing a push to get the feds to help fund Long Island efforts that allow districts to purchase school bus stop arm cams.
“Long Island school districts have made a cogent case when it comes to the need for the federal government to play a role in helping to make the ride our kids take to school on the bus each and every day safer,” said U.S. Senator Charles Schumer. “Nassau and Suffolk school districts along with law enforcement, have done the hard work at trying to make people pay attention to our bus arms when they flash ‘stop,’ but more can be done, and standard cameras on our bus arms, activated once the door opens, could mean all the difference to safety here on the Island.”
Across New York, roughly 2.3 million children ride the school bus each and every day while more than 50,000 New York vehicles illegally pass, despite stop signs that are illuminated or clearly marked. 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 highlighted how even though the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began investigating the issue and promised a report in the Fall of 2018, they have not yet released a thing. Schumer detailed federal legislation aimed at addressing the problem, called on NHTSA to release its report, or expedite its study, and then promptly implement any new or needed safety guidelines for cameras on school bus stop arms. Further, Schumer urged the creation of federal funding opportunities to help locals with installation, saying Nassau and Suffolk school districts could benefit.
“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: if bus-arm cameras can decrease dangerous and illegal passing on Long Island, well then, the feds should lend a hand,” Schumer added.
“Too many times we read in the papers or see the stories on the news about children who were killed by a car that did not stop when a bus has its red lights flashing and the stop sign out. I am proud that New York this year passed legislation that would require cameras on all school buses to help deter motorists from blowing pass the bus and I am proud that Governor Cuomo has already signed the legislation into law. I would like to thank United States Senator Charles Schumer for hosting this press conference and leading the fight in Washington. It is important that the Federal Government pass a nationwide School Stop Sign Camera Bill that would help keep our children safe,” said Assemblyman Anthony D’Urso.
“NAPT is committed to actions that will reduce incidents of illegal passing. These include ensuring effective lighting and signage on our school buses, school bus driver training on loading and unloading student passengers, safety-based route and stop selection and more. NAPT endorses and supports the installation of stop arm cameras on school buses and urges the federal government to increase its support for such technology. It’s important that NHTSA and other federal agencies focus on educational messaging and new technologies that will increase school bus safety and protect our children,” said Michael J. Martin, Executive Director of the National Association for Pupil Transportation.
"The number of drivers who illegally pass stopped school buses each day is staggering. The safety of our students is paramount, and we should take every opportunity we can to minimize the potential for harm to our children as they travel to and from school each day," said Bernadette Burns, President of Suffolk County School Superintendents Association.
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.
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.
As part of his push today, Schumer will also back federal legislation called the Stop for School Buses Act of 2019, proposed by Sen. Gary Peters of Michigan.
Specifically, the bill mandates the Department of Transportation to:
- conduct a review of existing state laws and programs regarding the illegal passing of school buses;
- establish and implement a nationwide public safety campaign to highlight the importance of illegally passing school buses;
- review and evaluate the effectiveness of various technologies to enhance school bus safety;
- review driver education materials in states to determine how the illegal passing of school buses is addressed; and
- research and prepare a report on the connections between the illegal passing of school buses and other safety issues.
Schumer concluded that for the safety of Long Island 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.