In Austin, Tex., this week, two different children were struck by cars in separate incidents. They'd both just gotten off the school bus. One child was 12, the other 17 years old.
Mounted cameras on the exterior of the buses in Texas, known as "Stop Arm cameras," caught both incidents on tape (both children suffered only minor injuries). The Austin Independent School District has used these cameras since February, which allows them to work with law enforcement to prosecute drivers who illegally pass stopped buses.
More than a dozen states have laws explicitly authorizing the use of Stop Arm cameras, but New York is not one of them.
State Senator Cathy Young (R-Olean) sponsors a Senate bill to allow school districts in New York to implement the mounted cameras. Both the Senate and Assembly versions of the bill have a collection of bi-partisan sponsors, but the bill has yet to reach the Governor's desk.
Peter Mannella, the Executive Director of the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, said he believes legislators and advocacy groups have made enough modifications to the bill for it to potentially pass next session. Consumer groups had raised questions about the implementation of the program, Mannella said, and others had questioned how exactly drivers would be warned of the cameras or penalized when caught. In other regions of the country, such as Illinois, the camera programs have drawn criticism.
But Mannella said they're a benefit to their communities.
"I know where the cameras have been put in place, they've seen reductions," Mannella said. "They're certainly not money-makers-- what we're trying to do is get people to stop for the bus."
A state committee estimates about 50,000 drivers illegally pass school buses every single day in New York. The Association for Pupil Transportation has also conducted its own surveys across the state, and those surveys support that statistic.
The cameras cost roughly $3,000 to $4,000 each, according to Mannella, but the program would work in such a way that districts would not have to pay for them. Instead, private carriers would be responsible for the bill, but they would make up the money by collecting part of the fines paid by drivers. The rest of those fines would go straight to the municipality.
A spokesperson for the Erie County Sheriff's Office said the Sheriff would be in favor of any legislation that helps prosecute illegal passers. In an email, he called this legislation "common sense."