County offers free program to ticket drivers who pass stopped school buses

— Photo from Albany County website
Statewide, an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses every day, according to New York State’s Operation Safe Stop. A camera on the side of this bus would record the passing car’s license plate so the driver could be ticketed.

ALBANY COUNTY — School districts in Albany County are being offered the opportunity, for free, to have their buses equipped with cameras that will record vehicles illegally passing stopped buses.

County Executive Daniel McCoy announced the program on Thursday at the South Colonie Central School District, the first to implement the program across its fleet of 59 buses. 

In three weeks, drivers who illegally pass South Colonie school buses that have their stop-arms out and flashing lights on will receive a warning as part of a public awareness campaign. In November, the program will go live and tickets will be issued.

The program will be entirely and exclusively funded by violator revenue over a five-year term, according to a release from the county.

According to state law, traffic approaching from either direction must stop for a stopped school bus with its red lights flashing. The first-time penalty for illegally passing a school bus is a $250 to $400 fine, 5 points on the driver’s license, and/or possibly 30 days in jail, according to the state’s Operation Safe Stop, which adds, “Worse yet, the memory of hitting or killing a child may be one you carry for the rest of your life!”

The Operation Safe Stop website says that every school day, 2.3 million children ride school buses statewide and an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass New York State school buses every day.

Albany County is working with safety technology company BusPatrol, which currently has programs in Dutchess County, Suffolk County, the town of Hempstead, and the city of Niagara Falls.

 Bus Patrol explains that stop-arm cameras identify illegal passers by license-plate number. Tickets are issued to a vehicle’s registered owner unless the automobile is proven stolen during the time of the offense. If someone other than the vehicle’s owner was driving at the time, the owner can request a transfer of liability.

 The company provides a diagram, detailing an eight-step process, beginning with a camera attached to the outside of the bus being activated when a vehicle passes. The data is sent to servers and processed before being reviewed for violations; an evidence package is then sent to the municipality where the violation occurred. The municipality reviews the evidence and issues a citation. The driver then pays the fine online or by mail.

Ninety-five percent of drivers do not contest their ticket after seeing video evidence of their violation, the company says.

In addition to automated enforcement technology, the release said, school districts in Albany County will also have access to safety features such as GPS tracking and emergency response solutions.

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