Increased Penalties Proposed for Passing Stopped Bus

A bill to increase penalties for drivers illegally passing school buses is currently pending. The measure is sponsored by Sen. John J. Bonacic, R-Mount Hope, with support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“The bill is intended to make our roads safer for our school children,” said Bonacic. “Anyone who puts the lives of our school children in jeopardy should be punished accordingly.”  

Bonacic represents the 42nd district in New York State, he has served the district since 2003. 

The bill (S.1064) would add a 60-day license suspension for third-time offenders over a ten year period. Lawmakers hope the measure will decrease the number of illegal bus passes and make school transport safer. 

Gov. Cuomo’s New York State Traffic Safety Committee estimates that 50,000 drivers illegally pass school buses every day in New York State. This puts the 2.3 million New York students riding school buses every year in danger. 

Under current legislation, first time offenders receive a maximum $400 fine, potential 30 days in jail and five point on your license. Repeated offenses could result in up to a $1,000 fine and 180 days in jail for repeated offenses within a three year period. 

In his 2018 State of the State message, Gov. Cuomo shared support over stiffer penalties for illegal school bus passing. Organizations like the New York Schools Bus Contractors Association (NYSBCA)  were pleased with the governor’s statement. 

“It is clear that current penalties are not enough to act as a deterrent,” said NYSBCA President Bree Allen. “We continue to strongly support the passage of complimentary bills, sponsored by New York State Senators Rich Funke and John Bonacic, to increase the penalties for drivers who continue to break the law and put our children in danger.”

Sen.Rich Funke (R-Fairport) proposed a maximum $1,500 fine for repeated offenses. In addition, drivers would be convicted of aggravated vehicular assault if they caused an injury and negligent homicide if someone were to die. 

Gov. Cuomo’s “Operation Safe Stop” on April 27, 2017 helped push this agenda. The event was held to raise awareness for laws punishing drivers for passing stopped school buses. According to a report Traffic Safety Committee, 70 police department across the state participated issuing 1,037 tickets were issued for illegal school bus passing that day alone. 

The Governor’s Traffic Safety Committe partnered with the New York Association for Pupil Transportation to organize the event. According to the governor’s office, these organizations have collaborated to spread the word about road safety. The program began in October 2003, drawing support from many members of the community

“Operation Safe Stop has played a crucial role in raining awareness and urging motorists to pay attention to the roads and abide by the law,”  Cuomo said.   

The bill unanimously passed in the Senate (60-0) but was halted in the Assembly and currently sits in the Transportation Department.

“I urge my colleagues in the Assembly to bring this bill to the floor and pass it so we can ensure that our kids are safe when they leave for school.”