NY State Police Step Up Patrols as Schools Reopen

The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee estimates 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses every day across New York State.

The New York State Police is increasing patrols to crack down on dangerous drivers as students across the state return to school, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced Sept. 4. He also urged motorists to watch for students as they walk or bike to school, follow posted speed limits, and stop and wait whenever a school bus is stopped with its red lights flashing and its "stop" sign extended.

"I urge every driver to take extra precautions now that school is back in session and students are returning to class," Cuomo said. "The safety of New York's children is our top priority, and these precautions will keep students safe from harm, prevent traffic violations, and hold reckless motorists accountable."

It's a significant challenge: In April 2018, more than 850 drivers statewide were ticketed for illegally passing stopped school buses during "Operation Safe Stop," a one-day enforcement effort, and state police and local law enforcement also issued 3,044 tickets for other traffic violations and made 89 arrests for offenses including drunk driving and aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle.

A breakdown of the illegal passing tickets shows 691 of them were issued in New York City on that day.

Department of Motor Vehicles Executive Deputy Commissioner and Acting Governor's Traffic Safety Committee Chair Terri Egan said, "The number of tickets issued in just one day underscores the importance of continued enforcement and education about the serious consequences that passing a stopped school bus can have. Children should be able to get on or off the school bus without a distracted or hurried driver putting their lives at risk. We owe it to students and their parents to watch for those flashing lights and stop whenever we see them. Drivers should also look out for children walking or riding bicycles to school."

The Governor's Traffic Safety Committee estimates 50,000 motor vehicles illegally pass school buses every day across New York State. Drivers convicted of passing a stopped school bus face a fine of $250 to $400 and five points on their license for a first violation. For three violations in three years, drivers face a maximum fine of $1,000, a revoked driver license for a minimum of six months, and possible jail time.

The committee, along with the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Transportation, and state police, joined Cuomo in urging caution as the school year begins. In addition to stepping up enforcement efforts, the state police will also be partnering with AAA for their "School's Open - Drive Carefully" campaign. State Police will be displaying AAA's "School's Open" bumper stickers on all marked patrol cars.

Cuomo in August 2018 signed an executive order to protect more than one million New York City school children from speeding vehicles. His action paved the way for the city to reinstate its school zone speed camera program after a bill to extend the speed camera law did not pass before the end of the legislative session. Cuomo also signed a bill in August to strengthen the state's requirements for random drug and alcohol testing for all school bus drivers. The law bars bus drivers from drinking alcohol at least eight hours prior to their shift, an increase from the previous six-hour limit.

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