BusPatrol, the leading provider of automated school bus stop-arm camera technology, recently held the first-ever New York School Bus Safety Summit in partnership with the New York Association for Pupil Transportation.
The event, held at the Mansion at Timber Point in Great River last Thursday, drew 150 attendees for an in-depth discussion among panelists and audience members on how school districts can leverage automated camera safety technology to enhance school bus safety and protect students from illegal motorist passing.
BusPatrol officials touted recent results that demonstrated a 30 percent decline in year-over-year violations since the inception of the Suffolk County program.
“We’ve seen a nearly 30 percent decline in year-over-year school bus stop arm violations since the start of the Suffolk County school bus safety program,” said Karoon Monfared, CEO and President of BusPatrol. “That means drivers are stopping for school buses and creating safer conditions for our kids.”
Liz Gilleo, transportation director for the Hendrick Hudson School District in neighboring Westchester County, explained how their school pilot program with BusPatrol demonstrated the sheer number of illegal school bus passings happening in her community. The shocking rates, she said, encouraged her to join other transportation directors to press county lawmakers to finally adopt a county-wide program of their own.
“We’re a small district; we only have 2,300 students, and for our district to have so many illegal passes in such a short amount of time was very alarming,” said Liz Gilleo.
Suffolk County law enforcement officials spoke about the growing challenge of distracted driving with the prevalence of social media apps and how there is a need for greater awareness around school bus safety.
“Students imitate the behavior they see. So, if they have been in vehicles at 7- or 8-years old, watching people use phones while driving, they are going to copy that behavior,” said Suffolk County Sheriff Errol Toulon. “We are leveraging technology – social media sites can detect when you are driving and stop you from using those sites – and raising awareness. But we have to make sure that there is accountability for people driving distracted.”
Police officers have been granted additional enforcement capabilities with the availability of school bus camera technology, according to Suffolk County Police Commissioner Rodney Harrison.
“We can’t be at every single school bus stop, but having these cameras on school buses and seeing firsthand how stop-arm violations take place is alarming,” said Commissioner Harrison. “No one here can say with confidence that their child will get on and off the school bus safety, and if we can’t hold drivers accountable, it’s not taken seriously.”
The keynote speaker, State Senator Tim Kennedy, who serves as Chair of the New York State Senate Committee on Transportation, championed legislation to authorize municipalities and school districts to install safety cameras on school buses.
“Stop-arm violation cameras were such a novel concept, and it was a pleasure for me to champion this cause,” said Kennedy. “Every day, 50,000 motorists make the decision to pass a school bus with its red lights flashing and stop arm deployed. Now, we are safer, motorists are held accountable, but it’s just a start.”
Since that legislation was signed into law in 2019, almost 7,000 New York school buses have been equipped with this lifesaving technology to curb illegal motorist behavior, protecting more than 350,000 students.
The most recent survey conducted by the National Association of State Directors of Pupil Transportation suggests that school buses are illegally passed an estimated 41.8 million times each year in the United States. In New York, there are 50,000 illegal passings each school day according to the Governor’s Office of Traffic Safety.
“In New York state alone, school bus contractors employ nearly 50,000 people and operate roughly 30,000 school bus vehicles,” said Nick Vallone, President of the New York School Bus Contractor’s Association. “This is an exciting time for the industry. Innovations like stop-arm cameras have revolutionized how we think about student transportation.”
BusPatrol is the leading provider of school bus stop-arm enforcement programs on Long Island. Other municipal partnerships across the state include Albany County, Monroe County, Dutchess County, Rensselaer County, and, most recently, Rockland County. Several other town and city programs are expected to launch later this year.