The East Meadow School District is planning to equip its buses with cameras to prevent vehicles from illegally passing them when their stop-arms are extended.
The cameras live-stream the activity around them and take snapshots of the license plates of vehicles that illegally pass, allowing the county to mail a ticket to the vehicles’ owners.
In June, East Meadow was the first district on Long Island to equip 12 of its 60 buses with such cameras as part of a 30-day pilot program in cooperation with Bus Patrol America, a safety technology company based in Lorton, Va. In a month, the district tallied 680 drivers who illegally passed buses that had stopped to pick up or drop off children. In 2018, however, police stopped and ticketed only 79 drivers for such an infraction.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Linda Meyerhoff, of East Meadow. “The district has to go forward with this program.”
Meyerhoff’s views were shared by many who voiced their concern about the issue on the East Meadow Moms Facebook page. Some people said they had called their local precinct to report vehicles they had seen illegally pass stopped buses.
“The problem is that police officers have to witness an infraction to take action on it,” said Board of Education Trustee Eileen Napolitano, who spearheaded the district’s pilot program. “Everyone thinks it’s a good idea to go forward with the cameras.”
According to data collected by the New York Association for Pupil Transportation, 50,000 cars illegally pass buses every day in the state. Passing a stopped bus is punishable with a ticket of $250 to $400, five points on a driver’s license and up to 30 days in jail. There were no tickets issued to drivers during the pilot period, and data was collected for informational use only, according to district officials.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo approved the School Bus Camera Safety Act in August, allowing local lawmakers and school district officials to work with private companies and install cameras permanently. Nassau County officials unanimously approved legislation in October to “opt in” to the governor’s law. Siela Bynoe, a Democrat from Westbury, sponsored the local legislation, and plans to hold an informational seminar early in 2020 for school district officials. The county will also survey school districts to gauge interest in the program.
Bynoe, a member of the Westbury School District Board of Education from 2010 to 2014, said she has looked for ways to improve students’ safety, especially when it comes to transportation to and from school. “I think this bill is an additional opportunity for us to identify motorists who are putting our children in harm’s way,” she said.
According to Christine Geed, the county executive’s director of communications, the county will begin seeking bids from companies to install the cameras in January.