Oneida County is preparing to implement a new state law intended to crack down on drivers who pass stopped school buses.
A measure going to county legislators next month would set up a pilot program with participating school districts to install cameras on the stop arms of buses to record vehicles in violation of the stopped-school-bus law.
The state Legislature passed a bill last year giving local governments the authority for the trial program. It was signed in August.
The rationale for the state law was the difficulty of catching violators and making a case when the violation was not witnessed by law enforcement.
The state Association for School Pupil Transportation surveyed school bus drivers in 2013 and found that on one day, 236 participating drivers in 21 rural, urban and small-city school districts reported 306 illegal passes, including six on the right side of buses, where students enter and exit. If extrapolated across the state, that would represent 64,000 passes on that day alone.
Details are yet to be announced, but Sheriff Rob Maciol said he presumes his department will be the law enforcement agency involved.
Much of the process is to be carried out within the system the county would buy from one of the vendors who make the equipment. When a violation is suspected, the relevant video will be flagged and sent to the Sheriff’s Office for review by a sworn officer, Maciol said.
“They would actually be the ones who would view these videos where there are alleged violations to ensure that in fact the arm was out and the vehicle passed the stopped school bus, and then they would sign off on that video basically,” Maciol said.
”You’ve got civilians and technology bringing this violation to your attention, but you need a sworn police officer to sign off on it before the person can be cited for the violation.”
Violators would be subject to penalties ranging from $250 for the first violation, $275 for a second offense within 19 months, and $300 for each subsequent violation. Owners of vehicles caught on camera would get a mailed notice that would include how it could be contested.
A violation would not be deemed a conviction and would not be put on the driver’s record and not used for insurance purposes.
During the first 30 days of the program in Oneida County, violators would get warnings.
It would take effect for next school year this coming fall.
The county is to cover the cost of the system. The images are to be destroyed after 90 days if no violations are reported. The county is to ensure that the privacy of drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists recorded is protected, and that the images are used only to carry out the monitoring program.
The county is also to add to signs on the county’s boundaries a notice that photo monitoring systems are being used.
The draft law is scheduled to go to the Board of Legislators’ Public Safety Committee’s Feb. 6 meeting in Utica.