Operation Safe Stop Day

March 29, 2011 Updated Mar 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM EDT

By WKBW News

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Operation Safe Stop Day

March 29, 2011 Updated Mar 29, 2011 at 10:47 AM EDT

ALBANY, NY (WKBW-Release)--

The New York Association for Pupil Transportation joins with law enforcement agencies, state agencies and school bus safety organizations to call attention to the dangers of illegal passing of school buses. Illegal passing refers to the passing of school buses that are stopped, with red lights flashing, indicating that they are loading or unloading children. Passing such school buses is a violation of the law in New York state.

"This practice, which we estimate occurs over 50,000 times per day in New York State, presents a significant risk to the 2.3 million children who ride school buses to school each day. They ride their school buses each day believing that the school bus is safe. What they can't count on is that the adults who drive cars won't stop to let them board and depart the bus safely," said NYAPT President David Christopher, of the Shenendehowa Central School District.

Christopher continued by noting that "our members across New York State will be collaborating with local and state law enforcement officials to conduct OPERATION SAFE STOP DAY on March 30th. We will have the full cooperation of the police to apprehend and prosecute motorists who put our children at risk. This is the 19th year we have conducted SAFE STOP DAY and we are hopeful that the public someday will get the message and STOP for the school bus."

Section 1174 of the State Vehicle and Traffic Law requires that motorists come to a full stop when they approach a school bus that has its red flashing lights engaged. Those lights signify that a child is either about to board the school bus or about to step of the school bus. Motorists are required to stop in all directions and on all roadways, including those that are divided with a median.

"We do all we can to ensure the safety of the school bus ride. We train school bus drivers rigorously and equip and maintain our school bus equipment to the highest standards. What we can't control is the willingness of motorists to ignore the law and place the children in harm's way. They are totally exposed walking to or from their school bus and are at risk of serious injury or death if struck by a moving vehicle," noted NYAPT Executive Director Peter Mannella.

NYAPT has worked with the Governor's Traffic Safety Committee, the Education Department, the New York State Police and other agencies and partners on educational projects intended to increase the awareness of the public to the requirements of the law as well as to the dangers that violating that law means for our children. This included pilot projects that involved mounting digital license plate cameras on school buses to photograph individuals who were passing the buses. In one of the locations, the school bus was passed on average of 1.6 times each day. Statewide, that would have translated to over 80,000 illegal passes daily, based on the more than 50,000 school buses in the state.

Mannella noted further that a female student was recently struck by a passing motorist in the Goshen Central School District as she crossed to board her school bus. The student reportedly suffered injuries to her leg and hip. "Children should not have to worry when they step off their school bus or walk to their school bus that there is going to be a 3,000+ pound car bearing down on them. They are entitled to the security and safety that is emblematic of the yellow school bus!"

On March 30, 2011, dozens of local police agencies will team up with local school districts to attack so-called "hot spots" where school bus drivers say motorists pass their school buses frequently. In 2010, over 1,200 tickets were issued to motorists who passed stopped school buses on Operation Safe Stop Day. The Association is expecting similar results for this year's event and will publish the results following completion of Operation Safe Stop Day.