When Westchester parents drop their kids off at the bus stop to go to school each morning, they think they’re in safe hands. Attorney General Eric Schneiderman isn’t so sure.
An investigation by Schneiderman’s office into school bus safety found that drivers had committed nearly 1,500 red light camera violations in Westchester and Suffolk counties committed by 15 randomly selected bus companies.
As part of National School Bus Safety Week, Schneiderman released his report “Wrong on Red: Report on School Bus Traffic Light Violations,” which calls for changes to state law to close a loophole by requiring bus companies to report violations to both state and school officials.
In his study, Schneiderman highlighted an incident in Ossining last November, when a school bus crashed into a telephone pole, leaving more than a dozen students with injuries. He also noted that the violations are not just drivers who don’t stop the bus long enough before making a right-hand turn, but some have gone straight through red lights, made left turns on red and even turned right on red when it was prohibited.
“Every morning, more than two million New York children are put on school buses by families that trust they’ll be safe. Unfortunately, New York law has a safety loophole big enough to drive a school bus through,” Schneiderman said. “Bus companies can rack up red light camera violations – yet have no legal obligation to report them to the state, or even use them as part of their evaluation of drivers.
In Westchester, bus companies in Yonkers, Mount Vernon and New Rochelle were investigated, with Schneiderman reporting that in 2016, there were nearly 300 red light camera tickets, with 20 school bus drivers identified as operating bus company vehicles receiving multiple violations.
Schneiderman said that New York’s Vehicle and Traffic Law provides state oversight of school bus companies, but does not require school bus companies to report any information relating to tickets issued for red light camera violations.
The law states that upon request by the DMV, school bus companies are required to submit driving reports that include miles traveled, convictions and accidents, and the number of convictions and accidents per ten thousand miles traveled; however, that does not include red light camera tickets.
“As a father, I wanted to know when I sent my children off to school in the morning, they were safe and secure on the bus,” Congressman Eliot Engel stated. “We can never be too careful when it comes to our children’s safety, but the Attorney General’s investigation into school bus driving records indicates additional steps need to be taken at the state level to ensure that safety.”
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