GRAND ISLAND, N.Y. (WIVB) — There’s another push to increase penalties for drivers who pas stopped school buses. It comes from Governor Andrew Cuomo’s State of the State.
In his State of the State book, the claims the state will increase fines for people who pass a stopped school bus that has its red lights flashing.
Michelle Driess has been driving Grand Island school buses for 13 years. She says it’s not uncommon for a driver to pass her illegally while she’s stopped.
“It could be daily,” Driess said. “There’s sometimes weeks go by and if it’s not that busy, we don’t see it happening. But it happens more often than we want it to.
“It is scary because you don’t know if they’re going to slow down, roll, or if they’re just going to hit the gas and go.”
The New York School Bus Contractors Association estimates 40,000 drivers illegally pass a stopped bus each day school is in session across the state. They don’t all get a ticket.
“There’s only so much we can do,” Driess explained. “We can log the information and report it. But the police pretty much have to be there.”
But for those who do get caught, Governor Cuomo wants to increase the penalty, which is a maximum fine of $400 right now. He made a vow in his State of the State book, but didn’t offer any specifics. Driess wants more.
“If he wants to increase the penalty, then other steps have to be implemented to follow up,” she said.
For example, she says more enforcement would help.
“It’s not just state police,” said New York State Police Trooper James O’Callaghan. “It’s other local law enforcement agencies. We have initiatives that put extra patrols out there to do exactly that, to look for people who would pass a school bus while the lights are red.”
“You do need the police, or another program, or another thing set up, where once we turn it in, they follow up and give them a warning at least,” Driess said. “If they get a warning and say if you’re caught next time, this is how much you’re going to have to pay.”
News 4 asked the governor’s office to give more details on the governor’s proposal, including how much he thinks the fine should be. Our calls haven’t been returned.