School is in its final six weeks, but it isn’t too late to talk about safety, especially for students and school buses they ride each day.
Momentum to do something is growing in the state Legislature as the Senate adopted two bills that will increase penalties for motorists passing stopped school buses and other measures to increase school bus safety.
The timing could not have been better. The state Senate passed the bill just days before a frightening video was released by the Norwich City School District, in Chenango County, that shows driver Samantha Call yanking a teenage student back into the bus just as a car whizzes past only a foot away from the open door.
If the full Legislature passes the bill and Gov. Andrew Cuomo signs it into law, it will increase the maximum fine for passing a stopped school bus on a first conviction from $400 to $500. Two convictions would top out at $750, and three or more convictions would have a maximum penalty of $1,000.
When children get on a school bus, parents want to be comfortable knowing they will get to and from school safely, but each day, reckless drivers ignore the law and put children at risk. The bill, which should be enacted into law as quickly as possible, will hold careless drivers accountable and strengthen important efforts to educate more drivers about school bus safety.
Yes, there have been few locally reported incidents of drivers hitting children getting off school buses, but that doesn’t account for the close calls we don’t hear about or are not reported. This bill is important. If one child dies at the hands of a reckless driver flouting the law, it will be one death too many.