New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a key component of his “Justice Agenda” this week. School buses will now be equipped with “stop-arm” cameras to ensure student safety on the roads.

The bill (S.4524B/A.4950B) authorizes school districts across the state to install stop-arm cameras on school buses to catch drivers who illegally pass a stopped school bus.

“No parent should ever have to worry that their child’s bus ride to and from school is anything other than safe and easy,” Cuomo stated. “By signing this measure into law, we are providing school districts the tools they need to hold reckless drivers accountable and advancing New York State’s bold initiatives to keep our schoolchildren safe.” 

New York State United Teachers President Andy Pallotta said the law was a long-time coming and hoped that districts would install stop-arm cameras as soon as possible.

“This law marks a significant step forward for student safety,” stated Pallotta. “With an estimated 50,000 motor vehicles illegally passing school buses every day across New York, bus drivers are constantly on the lookout for these reckless motorists while also keeping an eye on the children in their care. It is our sincere hope that school districts will work quickly to begin installing stop-arm cameras so we can better hold accountable those who show blatant disregard for our kids. We thank the governor and Legislature for putting our children first with this important legislation.”

According to state officials, approximately 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school annually. It’s illegal to pass a stopped school bus on the road, but that hasn’t deterred drivers. Once in April 2018, law enforcement decided to target drivers who passed stopped school buses and ended up ticketing 850 people. That would average about 150,000 occurrences in a 180-day school year of drivers illegally passing stopped buses.

“We are committed to ensuring the safety of our students getting to and from school,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “This legislation will allow for the installation of cameras on school buses to crack down on drivers who illegally pass them on the road, putting young people’s lives in danger. The effort builds on our other progressive policies to protect students and all New Yorkers from harm.”

Earlier this year, Cuomo signed legislation that reinstated the speed camera program in New York City and expanded the number of authorized school speed zones from 140 to 750. The hours of the speed program were also expanded to weekdays between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. Three years ago, Cuomo updated laws requiring school districts to designate points of contact in case of emergency, increasing training requirements for faculty and staff and updating safety drills to include a lock down event.

New York State Senator Tim Kennedy hoped that this new measure would deter drivers from putting students in danger.

“Every day across New York State, 50,000 drivers decide to deliberately break the law and pass a stopped school bus, putting our children’s lives and safety at risk,” stated Kennedy. “This is simply unacceptable. By enacting this comprehensive legislation that ensures stricter enforcement of these crimes, we’re sending a strong message: if you pass a stopped school bus in New York, you’re going to get caught, you’re going to be fined, and you’re going to be held accountable.”