ALBANY, N.Y. - Looking to help ensure the safety of New York’s students, Gov. Cuomo signed legislation earlier this month authorizing school districts to install stop-arm cameras on school buses to catch drivers who unlawfully pass a stopped 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 said in a prepared statement. “By signing this measure into law, we are providing school districts with the tools they need to hold reckless drivers accountable and advancing New York State’s bold initiatives to keep our schoolchildren safe.”

Mahopac School Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo said adding the cameras is a district goal and he and his staff will sit down and examine the legislation in detail.

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“We really have to look at it because what [Cuomo] is saying is that we are allowed to outfit the buses and we want to do that,” DiCarlo told Mahopac News. “There is money to do that. There will be discussions with our local state representatives to find funding, grants.

“We will look at the bill with our attorneys and transportation department and take the appropriate measures,” he continued. “We have worked closely with our local police and we have parents who will let us know what they think. But this makes it uniform; it makes it easy. And it’s a deterrent. The buses would have cameras on them and if you get caught passing one, the camera is there, and it will be a hefty fine.”

Passing a stopped school bus can bring a first-offense fine of up to $400, 5 points on the driver’s license and the possibility of as much as 30 days in jail. 

Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul said the state is committed to ensuring the safety of students getting to and from school.

“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,” she said. “The effort builds on our other progressive policies to protect students and all New Yorkers from harm.”

DiCarlo said he knows that buses are being passed illegally in Mahopac.

“There’s no question it happens here,” he said. “Our bus drivers will call and let [police] know and try to get the license plate number. But it happens very quickly. We will try to be proactive in Mahopac and we will do it (the installation of cameras) right.

“This happens throughout the country and I think it is important for the community and parents to know that we are transporting precious cargo and people need to know what the rules are,” the superintendent added. “I think the governor has seen enough of it happening that he is saying, ‘Listen, you are good to go. We are OK with it. Let’s outfit them.’ Now, it is a matter of how we can expedite it but in a financially prudent manner.”

In New York State, approximately 1.5 million students ride school buses to and from school every year. It is illegal to pass a stopped school bus. However, Operation Safe Stop in April 2018, the one day in which law enforcement targeted offenders passing a stopped school bus, documented that hundreds of people ignore this law. More than 850 people were ticketed, the equivalent of someone passing a stopped school bus over 150,000 times in a 180-day school year, endangering the safety of schoolchildren in every corner of the state. The legislation will hold drivers accountable.

DiCarlo said he’s unsure at this point how much it would cost to fit all the district’s buses with the cameras.