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Olean senator pushes school bus camera bill


State Senator Catharine Young is hoping this is the year the School Bus Camera Safety Act finally passes in Albany.

The bipartisan bill would allow stop-arm cameras to be installed on school buses, capturing the license plate numbers of cars that illegally pass when the stop sign is extended. The footage would be sent straight to law enforcement -- schools and bus companies are not allowed to view it -- and after reviewing it, police could issue tickets to law-breaking motorists.

Unlike being pulled over in person, camera footage could not be used to add license points or for imprisonment convictions.

Along with several co-sponsors, Young (R-Olean) has sponsored the bill since 2013. She talked about the dangers of vehicles illegally passing school buses in a press conference in Albany on Tuesday.

“The magnitude of this illegal behavior is alarming,” Young said. “Based on research from the New York State Association for Pupil Transportation, an estimated 50,000 motorists illegally pass a stopped school bus each and every day of the school year.”

Assemblyman William Magnarelli (D-Syracuse) calls the bill a “no-brainier.” He says he believes it is more of a problem for people in less densely populated areas.

“This is something very particular, I believe, to upstate New York than maybe [New York City],” Magnarelli said. “It’s important to us because of our rural areas and the great expanses that these buses travel.”

The cameras would be optional for school districts, not mandated.

“There is going to be a huge awareness campaign that goes into this,” said Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple. “If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. But this is something that is necessary.”

The cost of the cameras would be covered by the state.  The license plate-reading cameras cost around $8,000 to $9,000. Blank admitted he doesn’t know the exact cost because they need to be modified, but said it wouldn’t be far from those numbers.

The bill faces hurdles in the Assembly because of a reluctance to use cameras to issue tickets without having a law enforcement officer on the scene.

Similar legislation has already been passed in 15 states.