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PASS, FAIL: Automated Traffic Cameras Coming to Some NYC School Buses

Automated cameras are coming this fall to more than two dozen New York City school buses.

That bus-mounted stop sign could soon pack a lot more weight. Photo: Jorge Royan/Wikimedia Commons

Here's one Department of Education test students won't want to pass.

Automated "enforcement" cameras are coming to more than two dozen New York City school buses this fall to record how many drivers illegally pass the yellow scholastic engines — and financial penalties could soon follow, city officials said Tuesday.

The six-month data collection pilot will mount recording devices on more than 30 buses operated in all five boroughs by Brooklyn-based contractor NYCBUS, according to a spokesman for the Department of Transportation, which is leading the data collecting initiative along with the city departments of Education and Finance.

"This effort will provide valuable information on reckless driving near schools on tools we may be able to pursue as we continue working to keep young New Yorkers and all New Yorkers safe," the rep, Vin Barone, said in a statement.

Cameras will target drivers who fail to stop behind a school bus stopped to pick up or drop off passengers, Barone said. City rules do not yet permit officials to fine drivers who get caught; a proposal in Monday’s City Record would create fines of $250 for the first violation, $275 for the second, and $300 for every subsequent school bus camera ticket issued in an 18-month period.

The Finance Department will hold a virtual hearing on the proposed fines on the morning of Aug. 31. City Council members requested the camera trial run last year despite the city's initial hesitation to comply. Adams administration reps initially claimed that drivers who ignore bus stop arms did not cause many serious injuries.

As with the city’s speed and red light cameras, DOT would be in charge of reviewing violations while DOF would adjudicate cases and collect fines — if the larger program moves forward.

Streets with schools on them are far more dangerous than other roads during pickup and drop-off hours, especially at locations where most students are poor and people of color, an exhaustive Streetsblog investigation revealed last year.

Other local governments have had automated enforcement cameras on their school buses for years, with such initiatives dating back a decade or more in states like Washington, Connecticut, and Georgia

Closer to home, the Long Island town of East Meadow installed cameras on just 10 school buses in 2019, and caught 615 illegal and dangerous passes in just one month, reps for the company that outfitted the local buses with cameras there previously told the Council that year.

Street safety advocates praised the city for finally moving ahead with school bus cameras after automated speed cameras have shown to reduce speeding.

"Automated traffic enforcement is a proven tool to protect New Yorkers from crashes," said D'Shandi Coombs, a schools organizer at Transportation Alternatives, in a statement.

"Last year was the deadliest year for children under Vision Zero and expanding automated enforcement to school buses is an important step to keeping our children safe."

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